The Minnesota native fights for an interim world title versus Thomas Dulorme Saturday night on FOX but, outside the ring, he is already a champion.
The last several months have been challenging for everyone. But in Minneapolis, the community has been doubly shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the highly publicized, brutal killing of George Floyd by a police officer on May 25.
Welterweight contender Jamal “Shango” James (26-1, 12 KOs), a proud Minneapolis native, lives and trains in the very neighborhood where the George Floyd incident took place.
“When that happened, things got real crazy in my city,” said James. “My gym is just a mile away from where he was murdered. I live seven blocks from that store. When I’m running in the neighborhood, I run past that spot all the time.”
As the protests grew more intense, many businesses in the area closed. Those without means of transportation could no longer access grocery stores and markets. Coupled with the volatile atmosphere, most locals opted to remain home.
That’s when Circle of Discipline (COD), James’ home gym and a community center of sorts, decided to step in.
“We created a food shelf, and we also had people running bags of groceries out to people in need of it,” James said. “We had it organized so only a certain amount of people could come in at a time. We had it set up like a mini supermarket, in a U-shape. People would line up, we’d give them [hand] sanitizer. If they didn’t have a mask, we’d give them a mask. We’d have them come in with a bag and fill it up with stuff as they go through the line.
“We did social media posts, and we got interviewed on the local radio stations about it. We had a lot of people come and volunteer, people who didn’t even know about our organization before. The food was donated. We had one organization that came with like two U-Haul trucks full of food. It was a blessing because all that food was passed out.
“It was really cool to see people come together like that.”
James began going to COD when he was five. As a child, he learned to box and was mentored by several volunteers. Over the years, he’s switched roles to become a mentor in his own right and a leader in the community. James founded a leadership committee at COD called Pursuit of Discipline (POD), a mentoring group for young men and women.
“ Creating opportunities for the people we serve is one of my missions ” Welterweight Contender - Jamal James
“I wanted to make a place where people would feel safe to come and talk,” James said. “Since the gym is closed [due to the pandemic], we still try to keep connected with the people we serve by doing Zoom meetings with some of the young men and women.
“They can talk about stuff you don’t talk about in school. Relationships, how to overcome peer pressure, financial literacy, and things that are presented to you in life that can be stressful if you haven’t had anybody teach you how to deal with them. Before the pandemic, we’d go on field trips.”
COD is renovating a camp in northern Minnesota for getaways and summer camps for the kids in Minneapolis.
“Rich Richardson, one of the owners of the Minneapolis Armory, also leads the Armory Foundation,” James said. “They spearheaded a gala that raised a nice chunk of money for us that is going towards our ‘up north’ camp, so we can renovate it.
“A lot of young men and women we serve come from low income communities, and they gotta grow up quick. They just don’t get those types of opportunities to go to camps in the summer. We took them up here once just for a camping trip. It was crazy to see how these young men and women just came out of their shells. They really got to have fun and be free.”
At stake is the interim WBA World Welterweight title. Becoming world champion has always been a goal of James—one of many he is actively working at to see it come to fruition.
“Creating opportunities for the people we serve is one of my missions,” James said. “Letting them see that there’s more to life than just a little five-mile radius.
“Having this camp as well as maintaining the place we have in the city will make a big impact in the community, in a bigger way than just being a gym. We also want to have a paid staff so we can have more full-time programs, so people can get paid for doing what they love and helping other people.”
For a closer look at Jamal James, check out his fighter page.
For a closer look at James vs Dulorme, check out our fight night page.
"Outside The Ring" is a regular feature centered on the charitable efforts of PBC fighters. Learn more about what motivates these boxers and the causes they support outside the ring.