Marauding Russian Radzhab Butaev would not be denied as he halted belt holder Jamal James in nine rounds to claim the WBA Regular welterweight title at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday evening.
A relentless Butaev (14-0, 11 KOs & 1 NC) sucked the space from the ring with his lung-busting pressure and a ceaseless body attack before James was rescued in the ninth.
James (27-2, 12 KOs) posed early problems with his mobility and workrate, but Butaev stalked patiently as his brutal body work began to pay dividends in the fourth. The switch-hitting Russian was, however, deducted a point in the fifth for a rabbit punch after a series of warnings from referee Celestino Ruiz for other infractions.
The champion from Minneapolis was bloodied and battered by the sixth as the rumbling Butaev took over proceedings. James couldn’t keep Butaev off him as he suffered from a punishing attack downstairs.
Backed to the ropes from a further body assault in the eighth, a beleaguered James was under further fire in the ninth when referee Ruiz intervened.
“This is very important for me,” said Butaev. “It’s a big first step. It’s always been my dream to become a world champion. I took the first step today and I’m very happy.
“We worked hard on switching up and did it in sparring and it worked so we kept doing it. I felt it could have ended a lot worse. I thought it was stopped at the right time. He showed a lot of heart tonight.”
The defeated James added: “I’m good, it just wasn’t my night tonight. A big shout out to Butaev, he did his thing tonight. I’d rather go out on my shield if I’m going to go out. I thought it was a very competitive fight but that’s why we have a referee. He was just a better man tonight. I don’t want to make any excuses. I couldn’t keep him at range and I think rust played a part of it. But that’s boxing. Sometimes it’s not your night.”
In the co-main event, Philadelphia welterweight sensation Jaron Ennis (28-0, 26 KOs & 1 NC) registered a first-round KO of former world title challenger Thomas Dulorme (25-6-1, 16 KOs), with the Puerto Rican unable to rise from a second knockdown.
Switch-hitter Ennis dropped Dulorme with a big right hand early and the veteran contender never recovered. Dulorme rose for more and engaged in a desperate attempt to survive before a brisk one-two ended his night. Referee Mike Ortega counted him out after just 109 seconds.
“It was a good knockout,” said Ennis. “You know me, I wanted to show my skills and abilities. I’m just thankful for this opportunity. Now it’s on to the next. Let’s get the big names.
“We got it early, that’s okay by me. We don’t get paid for overtime. I knew it was over after that first knockdown. I just had to take my time and not rush anything. Everything I did today we worked on in the gym.
“I’ve been ready for a world title two years ago. I want the top guys: Errol Spence Jr., Yordenis Ugas, Shawn Porter, Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman. I’m ranked No. 3 in the IBF, so Errol Spence Jr. is who I want next.”
Earlier, Dominican lightweight contender Michel Rivera (22-0, 14 KOs) eased to a unanimous decision victory over Argentine and gym-mate Matias Romero (24-2, 8 KOs). All three scores were 100-90.
Main image: Esther Lin/Showtime.