The second boxing card held at the renovated Minneapolis Armory had turned very strange by the time Minneapolis welterweight Jamal James arrived to face Mahonry Montes, a fighter with a reputation for ruggedness, from the rugged territory of Sinaloa, Mexico.
James transformed an evening of strangeness into six minutes of ring mastery that resulted in a knockout of Montes with two seconds remaining in the second round.
Premier Boxing Champions was at the Armory for the second time in four months with James as the headliner, and this time the national television audience saw a more dominant performance from the Minnesota contender with the long reach.
James had taken the full 10 rounds and won a narrow decision over another veteran, Abel Ramos, in April. By record, Montes seemed another step forward in class, but this also appeared to be a fighter who was more sure of himself in James.
“Right off the bat, I could see he had a problem with my punches,’’ James said. “I was able to catch him with jabs to the body, and those bothered him.’’
James used the lessons learned in the first round to become more aggressive in the middle of the second. There was a hook to the head, and more body shots, including a big left that took the fight out of Montes.
“That’s where the liver is,’’ James said. “We work on those shots every day in the gym.’’
The combination of punches sent Montes to the ring floor late in the round. He started to get up, then felt that pain in his stomach again, and went reeling back to the canvas.
It was the 11th knockout in James’ 24 victories. And when he gets those, the formula generally is a combination of punches that includes the body.
“I’m always prepared to go 10 rounds,’’ James said. “That’s me as a fighter. I’m not a Mike Tyson that’s going to finish a guy with one punch. This time, when I saw he was hurt in the second round, I jumped on the chance to finish it early,’’
James said he was tense when he fought Ramos in April. “It was the first time at home for a big fight; the first boxing card in the new Armory,’’ he said. “I knew it would be a better fight from me tonight. We had a great camp and I was more relaxed.’’
In April, James said he put pressure on himself to get off to a dominant start. “I knew I had 10 rounds if that’s what it took to win the fight,’’ he said.
Then Jamal James smiled and said: “I didn’t need 10.’’
James entered as the No. 3-rated welterweight in the WBA. What’s next?
“I will talk with my team and see where we should go now,’’ James said. “Ever since Al Haymon took over as my manager, it has been a steady rise. It would be great if a world championship fight was on the horizon, but I will go with Mr. Haymon’s advice.’’
Among other things, Haymon is the founder of Premier Boxing Champions, and it has found a boxing venue with an exceptional atmosphere in the Armory. There was a paid crowd of 3,574 that made for a loud atmosphere and plenty of people in the background for television.
Still, it was boxing, and what’s a night at the fights without a few strange happenings?
It started when Caleb Truax, the other Minnesota headliner on the card, failed to make weight. The former IBF super middleweight champ had his fight with Fabiano Pena moved to the end of the card, after the Premier telecast was over.
Pena was way overmatched for a fight with a former world champ, and Truax (now 30-4-2) finished him in the third round.
There was another happening on Friday that set a higher standard for strange.
A six-round heavyweight fight between Efe Ajagba (5-0) and Curtis Harper (13-5) was inserted in the TV card ahead of a 10-rounder featuring Willie Monroe Jr., and then the James-Montes main event.
Ajagba was getting ready in his corner when Harper stepped through the ropes and headed back toward the locker rooms. Bobby Brunette from the Minnesota Boxing Commission went to find out what was going on, as the crowd hooted its derision toward a ring that contained one fighter.
“Harper said he wanted to see his contract or he wasn’t going to fight,’’ Brunette said. “I told him that he had signed the contract and it was already filed with the state of Minnesota.
“So, he decided not to fight. I’ve been in boxing a long time and haven’t seen that.’’
Harper told a reporter that he wasn’t getting paid enough for the fight. Amazingly, Harper was said to be still arguing with boxing officials an hour later that he should get paid what was on the contract that was filed.
Generally, even in the wonderful and wacky world of boxing, they want you to answer the opening bell to get paid.