Jamal James captured the WBA interim welterweight title by defeating Thomas Dulorme by the scores of 115-113, 117-111 and 116-112 in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card Saturday night at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. It was a fast-paced fight that saw both men have their moments, but it was James who took over down the stretch, taking advantage of his height and reach.
The game plan was clear for Dulorme -- crowd and smother the 6-foot-2 James and wear him down physically. In the first half of this contest, he seemed to be having some success with that strategy. Dulorme (25-4-1, 16 KOs) pressed forward early on and got inside position on James (27-1, 12 KOs), throwing a multitude of left hooks inside to the body.
But to the credit of James, he not only withstood the early onslaught, but he held firm and began to land his own long right hands from the outside. Eventually the all-out pressure of Dulorme began to wane in the second half of the fight.
James was able to control the pace of the fight in the later rounds, keeping Dulorme at bay as his energy declined. Eventually, James landed sharp combinations that discouraged Dulorme from coming forward, rendering his offense ineffective.
James showed that he isn't just skilled but also durable. At the end of the night, the punch output was nearly equal, with James throwing 772 punches to Dulorme's 771, but it was James who was far more accurate, landing 204 of his punches to Dulorme's 115.
"I've been working so long for a title shot," James said after the fight. "So being able to get this opportunity and then actually following through and winning, it just meant the world to me."
This was a well-earned victory for James, who further cemented his status as a player in the welterweight division.
"Obviously, I would like to get a shot at Manny Pacquiao -- he's got the WBA super title," James said. "But I know he's such a big name, so it really doesn't matter. I want any of the big-name welterweights -- we can really put on a good show."
Takeaway: Disregard the WBA interim title -- James is a legitimate welterweight contender. He showed that in pulling away from a determined Dulorme, who thought he could break down his opponent but found that James wasn't going to falter.
James has just one loss on his ledger, a unanimous decision against Yordenis Ugas four years ago. Since then, James has won seven straight fights. Dulorme is a solid welterweight who has been defeated in recent years only by the elite of the division (Terence Crawford and Ugas). By soundly defeating Dulorme, James showed that he's ready for bigger and better things in the division.
At 6-foot-2, James is one of the toughest matchups in a crowded welterweight division, but what was impressive on Saturday is that he took the early pressure of Dulorme and stood up to it. It's one thing to be difficult because of your physical dimensions, but do you have poise and staying power?
It turns out he does.
Morrell wins interim title in his third fight
David Morrell won the vacant WBA interim super middleweight title with a one-sided unanimous decision victory over veteran Lennox Allen in only his third professional bout. All three judges scored the fight for Morrell: 118-110, 119-109 and 120-108.
Despite having just three rounds under his belt coming into this contest, Morrell (3-0, 2 KOs) held up well over the long haul, as he was extended the distance by Allen (22-1-1, 14 KOs). It was a battle of southpaws that was relatively close early on, but as the fight progressed, Morrell took over with his activity and energy.
While Allen set a few traps with his counter right hook, Morrell was able to consistently outwork him with a steady attack. Allen could never really hurt Morrell with any of the punches he landed, or connect on enough of them to turn the tide.
Coming into the pro ranks with a huge amateur pedigree from Cuba, Morrell showed that he has a strong all-around skill set. He gained some valuable experience Saturday night.
Takeaway: Morrell is being moved quickly, which is why he was placed in a interim title fight against Allen so early in his career. The left-hander was solid, if not spectacular, in winning a wide decision.
Morrell is just 22, and I can't help but wonder what the rush is with him. Unlike other boxers who are placed into world title contention in their first few fights, such as Vasiliy Lomachenko, Morrell is still very young and time is on his side. Is he really an elite 168-pounder at the moment?
Currently, the WBA has four titleholders at super middleweight. Callum Smith is the organization "super" champion, Canelo Alvarez is the "regular" champion, and Fedor Chudinov is the "gold" champ. Now, Morrell is the interim titlist, whatever that means.
Morrell has a future, but this WBA belt is as authentic as the piped-in crowd noise inside the Microsoft Theater.
Mielnicki shines in KO win
Highly touted welterweight prospect Vito Mielnicki Jr. remained undefeated by defeating Chris Rollins by second-round KO.
A solid right hand stunned Rollins (3-2, 2 KOs) in the second, and the 18-year-old Mielnicki (6-0, 4 KOs) poured it on with a series of power punches until referee Jerry Cantu waved off the fight at 2:19 in the round.
Mielnicki, who just graduated from West Essex High in New Jersey, is considered one of the better young boxers in the PBC stable. This was his first outing since he appeared on the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury II undercard on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas, where he scored a four-round decision over Corey Champion.
"I think adversity just makes everyone stronger. It builds you as a person; it builds you with character. During this time, I think I've matured. I've been working on a lot of things with my coach, and I think this time just let me heal my body."
Takeaway: The future looks very bright for Mielnicki. Yeah, he was supposed to defeat Rollins, but what was impressive about this outing was just how technically sound and poised he looked in winning.
He wasn't trying to force a knockout, but he let it come naturally. Nothing looked rushed, as Mielnicki showed a strong fundamental base, and then he pounced once Rollins was buzzed by a straight right hand.
Mielnicki could be the PBC's best pure prospect when you take into account his age, his ability and the fact he seems very marketable. But the bottom line is that you have to have the ability to fight, and unlike say, Joey Spencer, who has already hit a wall in his development, Mielnicki seems to have a much higher ceiling as a fighter.
Just six fights into this career, Mielnicki is a fighter to keep an eye on.
Juarez stays undefeated in lackluster win
Junior welterweight Omar Juarez remained undefeated by scoring a six-round unanimous decision victory over Willie Shaw by the scores of 58-56, 59-55 and 60-54.
It was a rather difficult fight for Juarez (8-0, 4 KOs), 21, who controlled the action with his aggression but had problems finding the elusive and athletic Shaw (12-2, 8 KOs), 28, who did very little offensively on his end.