Add another man to the list of important welterweights.
Radzhab Butaev stopped Jamal James in the ninth round to stamp himself as a legitimate contender in one of the sport’s deepest divisions Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Butaev was simply too strong for his tall, wiry opponent. James tried to keep the former Russian amateur star off of him by jabbing and countering — as well as moving his feet — but he ultimately wilted under the constant pressure.
Butaev did particularly good work to the body, which evidently took a toll on James.
James was still fighting gamely when he took a series of hard shots with his back against the ropes, which prompted referee Celestino Ruiz to jump between the fighters and save James from further punishment.
The official time of the knockout was 2:12 of Round 9.
Butaev was leading on the cards after eight rounds. Two judges scored it 77-74, including a point that was taken away from him for a foul in Round 5. The third just, Patricia Morse Jarman, had James leading 76-75.
Some will label the stoppage premature, particularly because James has some success early in the round. However, Butaev thought the referee made the right move and James didn’t complain vociferously.
“I felt it was coming to a point where it could’ve ended a lot worse,” he said through a stranslator. “I felt it was the right thing to do because I had him almost.”
Said James: “I’d rather go out on my shield or out on the floor if I’m going to go out. I still felt that I had strong will. Obviously he was catching me with some pretty nice shots [but] I felt that it was still very competitive.
“But that’s why we have a referee. I’ll keep fighting until I can’t no more.”
Butaev (14-0, 11 KOs) was an accomplished amateur — he reportedly had 400 fights — but the fight with James (27-2, 12 KOs) was his biggest opportunity as a pro.
To say he took advantage of it is an understatement. He’s now the WBA’s “regular” titleholder, which Boxing Junkie doesn’t recognize.
However, with his victory, he can now expect to face the winner of a projected fight between WBA beltholder Yordenis Ugas and Eimantas Stanionis for a major world title.
“This is very important, the is a big step for me, but it’s only my first step,” Butaev said through a translator. “This is my dream, I became world champion. But I believe everything is ahead of me. And I’m looking for the biggest challenges.
“This is the first step and I took it today. And I’m looking to try to prove I’m one of the best in the division. I’m very happy today.”