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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

James, Morrell to fight for WBA belts on Armory boxing card April 11

The World Boxing Association now has three categories of world champions: super, world and interim. What that seems to mean is anyone winning an interim gets a belt declaring him to be a world champion, and the other beltholders can’t duck him for future bouts.

Thus, there will be two WBA interim titles on the line on April 11 at the Minneapolis Armory, when Jamal “Shango’’ James (26-1, 12 KOs) meets Thomas Dulorme (25-3-1, 16 KOs) for a welterweight belt, and David Morrell Jr. (2-0, 2 KOs) takes on Lenox Allen (22-0-1, 12 KOs) for a super middleweight title.

The bouts will be the headline events for a Premier Boxing Champions card on Fox.

“This is a big deal in the boxing world,’’ said Luis de Cubas, the head of Warrior Boxing and the manager for Morrell. “People have been waiting for Jamal to get a shot like this, and the whole boxing world is excited about David.’'

James had been looking for a chance to fight for a belt since April 13, 2018, when he helped bring boxing back to the restored Armory with a majority decision over veteran Abel Ramos.

Three more Armory victories followed: second-round knockout of Mahonri Montes (8-24-18); over Janer Gonzalez (2-13-19) when Gonzalez didn’t answer the bell for the seventh round; and a unanimous decision over rugged former champion Antonio DeMarco (7-13-19).

Now, James gets his biggest fight against Dulorme, a Puerto Rican and former world title challenger. Dulorme had a win over previously unbeaten Terrel Williams and a draw with former world champion Jessie Vargas in his last two bouts.

Dulorme had a previous title bout against the great Terrance Crawford in April 2015, and was stopped in the sixth round.

James’ first bout at the Armory vs. Ramos was less than impressive – a bit nervous, breaking in the restrored hometown venue, he admitted – but his last three performances were very good.

James offered this quote in the news release announcing the April fight: “I’m super hungry. I’ve been looking for my belt. It’s time for that belt. Shango needs to shine.’’

Morrell, 22, had more than 100 fights as a much-honored amateur in his native Cuba. He defected to Mexico and then signed with Warrior Boxing in the summer of 2019, after being given permission to fly to Miami.

He moved to Minneapolis last August and is living and training here. De Cubas’ promotional plan is to make him a local favorite, as the Armory continues to host and promote cards in conjunction with Premier Boxing Champions.

“The boxing fans around here are going to embrace this kid,’’ de Cubas said. “Look at it: David had one quick fight here in his pro debut last August, then his second fight was in the Washington, D.C. area in November.

“And he was so impressive that the WBA moved him from No. 15 to No. 3 in its rankings, and gave him this title shot. After two pro fights.’’

Reusse: Tony Fernandez' influence ongoing in 'Cradle of Shortstops'

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jorge Polanco did not know Tony Fernandez personally and only met him once in a group. Yet, Tony’s impact on the baseball-playing youth of San Pedro de Macoris on the Dominican Republic’s southeastern coast was such that on Monday, before the Twins’ first full workout, Polanco said:

“Tony Fernandez was my idol.’’

Fernandez died on Sunday at 57, after two years of dealing with kidney disease. He also suffered a stroke and was taken off life support at a hospital in the Miami area.

“Tony was a great player and a great person,’’ Miguel Sano said Monday. “He was the reason all of us San Pedro kids wanted to play shortstop.’’

Even a bigger kid such a yourself? “I was not that big then, but yes,’’ Sano said. “He would come back after the season and work with young players, at an academy.

“He brought hundreds and hundreds of kids to baseball. He was proud of that, proud of his town.’’

Epy Guerrero was the legendary Blue Jays’ scout who signed Fernandez as he was turning 17 years old in 1979. Thirty years later, Epy’s son Fred signed Sano and Polanco from San Pedro de Marcoris.

They were two-thirds of the 2009 international market bonanza for then-GM Bill Smith that includes Germany’s Max Kepler.

Fred Guerrero now runs Latin American scouting for the Twins. Rumor has it, they do all that’s possible to keep Guerrero in their employ, as other organizations attempt to poach him.

Tony Fernandez reached the big leagues with Toronto in September 1983. So many talented youngsters tried to follow in his cleat marks that San Pedro de Macoris became known as the “Cradle of Shortstops’’ for a time.

Manny Alexander told the Baltimore Sun: “I watched Tony Fernandez make it to the major leagues. I always wanted to play shortstop since then. I thought maybe one day I can be like him.’’

Alexander said this in 1995, and a quarter-century later, Polanco, the American League’s incumbent All-Star shortstop, was calling Fernandez his “idol.’’

That gives you a snapshot of the lasting power of the Fernandez’ legend in San Pedro de Macoris.

Bill Evers, the Twins’ veteran coach, was asked if he had encountered Fernandez in his long tenure in the minors.

“My only connection to Tony is that I was the manager who sent Derek Jeter, as a 20-year-old, to replace him with the Yankees when Tony was injured in 1995,’’ Evers said. “I told Derek, ‘You’re coming back when Fernandez gets healthy,’ and that’s what happened.

“The Yankees also saw enough to know Derek was their shortstop for 1996, so Tony had to move.’’

The Yankees plan for 1996 was to have Jeter at shortstop and Pat Kelly at second base, with Fernandez as the backup to both. Then, Fernandez dived for a ball at second base in an exhibition and fractured his right elbow. He missed the entire season.

“That was the second time Fernandez broke that elbow,’’ said Dan Gladden, championship leftfielder turned 20-year radio broadcaster for the Twins. “Bill Madlock was with the Tigers and took Tony out with a slide in late September 1987. He landed on a wooden barrier they had separating the turf and grass and fractured his elbow.

“The Blue Jays were a couple of games in front of the Tigers in the [American League] East. Tony missed the rest of the season and the Tigers passed them on the last weekend.

“If Fernandez was in the lineup for those last eight, nine games of the season, we probably would have wound up playing the Blue Jays, not the Tigers, in the ALCS.’’

The younger, more athletic Twins played five tremendous games to upset the 98-win Tigers 4-1, then won a first World Series.

“Tony was gone [in San Diego] by the time we beat the Blue Jays in the ALCS in 1991,’’ Gladden said. “I only knew him as an opponent, but as a shortstop, he was one of the best in those Toronto years.’’