Despite a number of boxing promoters and networks making headlines ahead of their long-awaited return amid the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday's PBC on Fox welterweight duel has fallen a bit beneath the radar.
It's a statement that may seem apropos considering the two headliners, red-hot Jamal James (26-1, 12 KOs) and veteran contender Thomas Dulorme (25-3-1, 16 KOs), have largely been on the outside looking in of the crowded 147-pound title picture despite impressive performances of late.
That should change when the two meet inside an empty Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles for the interim WBA welterweight title in Fox's first televised boxing card since March. The main card kicks off at 8 p.m. ET and, after the main event, continues on FS1 at 10 p.m. ET with post preliminary action.
James, 32, has been one of the division's best-kept secrets of late and is riding a six-fight win streak since the lone loss of his career by decision to fellow contender Yordenis Ugas in 2016. The 6-foot-2 James has recorded victories during that span against JoJo Dan, Diego Chaves (by knockout) and Antonio DeMarco, with the latter coming in the form of an all-action affair last July.
Originally scheduled for April in James' hometown of Minneapolis, where he has fought four straight times in what has become a boxing hotbed, the 12-round bout now gets showcase status on national television. A victory over the hard-punching Dulorme should propel James into a fight against the upper elite, which has been difficult for him to secure given his length, awkward style and lack of a household name.
"I'm excited and ready to be getting back in the ring after everything happening these last months," James said. "Thomas Dulorme is a strong opponent and I feel that we will be giving boxing fans a great night of action. Training has gone extremely well and I am more than prepared to secure this victory."
A native of Puerto Rico, the 30-year-old Dulorme has achieved equal moments of highs and lows in recent years after initially exploding onto the scene as a bright prospect. He has fought through concerns over his chin and lost when moving up to face the division's elite, including Ugas and Terence Crawford.
But Dulorme has also avoided falling into gatekeeper status with strategically timed wins. He handed the first defeats to unbeatens Karim Mayfield and Terrel Williams and battled back to claim a competitive majority draw against Jessie Vargas in 2018.
A victory over James would be one of the biggest of Dulorme's career and, for his hopes, draw him closer to his dream of one day facing Filipino legend and current WBA champion Manny Pacquiao.
"I have been in training camp now for over four months for this fight and I can't wait to get in the ring and put on a spectacular performance," Dulorme said. "The delay only makes me more motivated. James is a good fighter but I am on a different level and it will show. I will put on the best performance of my career and win the WBA title."
Rising prospect David Morrell gets a showcase opportunity in the co-main event when he takes on Lennox Allen at super middleweight. Morrell has only had two professional fights, but both have resulted in highlight-reel knockouts. He gets a tough opponent in Allen, who boasts an undefeated record at 22-0-1 with 14 knockouts. He has only fought twice since 2015 and most recently in February 2019.
Fight card, odds
Jamal James -170
Thomas Dulorme +145
David Morrell -900
Lennox Allen +600
Dulorme has evolved into a bit of a sneaky out in recent years considering his punch resistance isn't as bad as once thought and his boxing ability -- particularly as a counter puncher -- is better than people give him credit for by labeling him as nothing but a slugger.
The propensity for this to become an action fight sooner than later is certainly there given James' high-volume style and how willing he is to typically give up his height advantage by fighting on the inside. What helps that scenario become even more likely is that Dulorme will hold a three-inch advantage in terms of reach despite giving up four inches in height to James.
At the end of the day, it comes down to whether James can survive Dulorme's firepower should this become the same type of phone-booth fight he had against DeMarco.
The fact that Dulorme isn't as consistent a body puncher as DeMarco should help James in that regard and is part of the reason why the streaking James has been installed as the favorite. But he's only the favorite by a slight margin and the main reason for that is how much his aggressive style could make him vulnerable to the one thing Dulorme does great and that's deliver fight-altering power shots.
If James can jump him and smother Dulorme so that he isn't afforded room to find extension for his big left hook, there's certainly a strong path to victory for the fresher James to rely on his hunger and volume. But he simply can't be as willing to get into a war as he was with DeMarco without risking a legitimate chance at a knockout loss.
Dulorme showed enough resolve to get up off the canvas in Round 12 against Vargas and finish the fight strong en route to a draw. James may not have the firepower to get him out of there, which means a close decision could very well be the best bet.
Pick: James via MD12