The undefeated slugger dethrones James to capture a welterweight belt while Jaron Ennis and Michel Rivera show their class in dominant performances Saturday night on PBC on SHOWTIME.
Not much was known about 27-year-old Russian Radzhab Butaev, other than he was from Russia and was an undefeated, rugged, come-forward welterweight.
Jamal James, the lanky 33-year-old from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was believed to have the stage to himself. James had grown tired of biding his time and lying on the periphery of the welterweight division, the world’s deepest weight class.
But on Saturday night, Butaev rocked the welterweight boat by upsetting James by ninth-round stoppage in the main event on Showtime Championship Boxing from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Butaev (14-0, 11 KOs) grabbed a version of the WBA world welterweight championship, while James (27-2, 12 KOs) will need to go back to the drawing board.
“This is very important for me,” Butaev said. “It’s a big first step. It’s always been my dream to become a world champion. I took the first step today and I’m very happy.”
“I’d rather go out on my shield if I’m going to go out,” James said. “I thought it was a very competitive fight but that’s why we have a referee. He was just a better man tonight. I don’t want to make any excuses. I couldn’t keep him at range and I think rust played a part of it. But that’s boxing. Sometimes it’s not your night.”
James used his length at the outset to keep Butaev off of him, which Butaev tried to change by going southpaw in the fourth round. Butaev even had James in trouble against the ropes going to the body later in the round.
“We worked hard on switching up and did it in sparring and it worked so we kept doing it,” Butaev said. “I felt it could have ended a lot worse. I thought it was stopped at the right time. I thought James showed a lot of heart tonight.”
In the fifth, Butaev was backing up James again, but James stopped that with a right uppercut. With 1:35 left in the fifth, the fighters clashed heads, causing a quick moment of sportsmanship, when they touched gloves. With :31 left in the fifth, referee Celestino Ruiz deducted a point from Butaev for hitting on the break.
By the sixth, Butaev was back to an orthodox stance, while James tried to keep him off by using the jab. But Butaev kept coming at him. The sway of the fight was clearly moving towards Butaev’s direction.
In the ninth, James started well, but Butaev came back and began pummeling a fatigued James until referee Ruiz stepped in at 2:12 of the round to end it.
“I have nothing against the ref’s decision,” Butaev said. “I like to have a back and forth fight and I don’t like it be stopped. I have an exciting style. He saw it the way he saw it. I have no problem with the stoppage.”
James was gracious in defeat.
“I’m good. It wasn’t my night tonight,” James said. “A big shout out to Butaev and to Ennis. They did their thing tonight. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring my belt back to Minneapolis and the guys at Circle of Discipline.”
Jaron Ennis devours Thomas Dulorme
Great things are expected to happen for Jaron “Boots” Ennis. The 24-year-old budding welterweight star has not gone any longer than six rounds as a pro and Thomas Dulorme was supposed to provide a test.
Ennis (28-0, 26 KOs) made quick work of the veteran, knocking him down twice in the first round, using a left hook to set up a pulverizing right the first time, which caught Dulorme just under the left ear. The second came off a straight right that planted Dulorme.
“It was a good knockout,” Ennis said. “You know me, I wanted to show my skills and abilities. I’m just thankful for this opportunity. Now it’s on to the next. Let’s get the big names. Let’s go!
“We got it early, that’s OK by me. We don’t get paid for overtime. I knew it was over after that first knockdown. I just had to take my time and not rush anything. Everything I did today we worked on in the gym.”
Referee Mike Ortega stepped in and waved it over at 1:49 in the first with Dulorme (25-6-1, 16 KOs) out on his feet.
“I’ve been ready for a world title two years ago,” Ennis said. “I want the top guys: Errol Spence Jr., Yordenis Ugas, Shawn Porter, Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman. I’m ranked No. 3 in the IBF, so Errol Spence Jr. is who I want next.”
Michel Rivera makes it look easy against tough Jose Matias Romero
Michel Rivera (22-0, 14 KOs) is doing an amazing job sticking with the Muhammad Ali motif, from the flattop haircut down to the traditional white trunks with the black stripe down the middle and black waistband with “Ali” emblazoned across the front.
At times on Saturday night, the lightweight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, even looked like “The Greatest” as he flicked the jab to the body and to the head.
Rivera delivered a virtuoso performance with a 10-round unanimous-decision victory over Jose Matias Romero.
“I really don’t have beef with anybody,” Rivera said. “I’m just fighting to be great in boxing. He took the fight because he knows me and he needs the money. I said no to this fight at first. He took it. It’s finished now and we both move on.”
Romero could do little, but to back away. The times Romero (24-2, 8 KOs) tried loading up to hit Rivera, he was nowhere to be found.
Romero tried coming forward in the fourth, only to be chopped up by double left hooks and jabs again to the body and head.
“I just had trouble getting to the right distance,” Romero said. “He was hitting me with the jab and I just couldn't reach him. I wanted to counter but I couldn't get there fast enough. I tried to engage but he really didn't want to. He beat me fair and square. He didn't bring anything I haven't seen before but he did a good job.”
Time and time again, Rivera used the jab like a metronome, battering the game Romero, who tried to close the distance in the seventh, succeeding sporadically, though not enough to do any damage.
By the 10th, Rivera was easily in command.
“Well, really I did everything I could,” Rivera said. “I don’t feel good about my performance. I know that I can be a lot better than I showed tonight. Of course, I can improve and get some more experience. I’m No. 2 in the WBA so I think I'm just waiting for a world title shot.”
On the undercard, junior welterweight Darwin Price (18-1, 11 KOs) pulled off a mild surprise by stopping previously undefeated Jean Torres (19-1, 15 KOs) in the sixth round of a scheduled 10-rounder. It marked Price’s second win in 2021, coming off a knockout loss to Malik Hawkins in December 2019. Welterweight Alberto Palmetta (17-1, 12 KOs) extended his winning streak to 11-straight with an eight-round decision over Yeis Solano (15-2, 10 KOs).
For a closer look at James vs Butaev, check out our fight night page.