|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY February 19, 2013||
by Gary Purfield
In his own words Jamaal Davis is in a "must win" situation on Saturday. In his own words he is not happy with, much less satisfied with, his pro boxing career so far. And in his own words he is capable of much more, which he believes he has shown in his recent fights.
Saturday night at Ballyís Casino in Atlantic City Davis (14-8-1, 6 KO) takes on Patrick Majewski (20-1, 13 KO) in the main event of the Peltz Boxing card. Davis goes back to middleweight where he began his career to take on the favored Majewski who will have an advantage in size and the benefit of fighting in his home area.
Davis, like so many pro boxers, got his start in boxing thanks to getting into trouble as a kid. The South Philly product had one too many incidents on the streets and went to live with his aunt in Virginia. He was supposed to escape troublesome behavior in Virginia but instead got caught up with the law after a fight on a school bus landed him on probation.
"Originally from Philly, South Philly born and raised. I moved to Virginia my tenth grade year. Basically my tenth grade year I was getting in a lot of trouble. I was getting kicked out of school, getting suspended, so it wasnít looking good. If I was to stay here instead of going to Virginia I would probably be dead now or in jail."
"As fast as I went to Virginia, middle of the school year I got sent back home. I got from getting Aís and Bís to getting in a fight on the school bus, and being the clown that got sent back here and basically almost falling back into the same thing. When I came back home I was stuck with all the cases from Virginia so I was stuck with probation, house arrest, community service."
When you meet Davis and speak with him it is hard to imagine him being aggressive outside of a boxing ring. He is as welcoming and personable as a person can be. He greets everyone he knows with a big warm smile that makes people like him and makes people feel welcome. He is now married and a father of four with another on the way. His experience with life and family as a kid and now as a parent allows him to look back and ahead to appreciate the whole experience.
"You start feeling as though your family donít want you, your mom donít want you, she donít want to be bothered with your craziness and stuff like that. Me having kids now I understand what I put my mom through."
"Iím married now, we have four kids. We have one child together, soon to be two. My two older kids are Jebris and Jamaal Davis, everybody know them. Then I have a seven year old, Aiden, then I have my son Chunks, which is Landen, thatís my little man. As far as I know right now weíre adding a little addition which Iím excited about because itís the first one in the marriage and building a future."
Davis started boxing, stopped, and then got back into the sport while living in Pittsburgh where he met heavyweight contender Eddie Chambers. He came back to Philly with the Chambers brothers Eddie and Steve where he first entered Shulers Gym. While Shulers is his home now and Davis is a well-known figure in the tough gym, it was not an immediate welcoming.
"We came down to visit in 2001. I came down here with Steve and Eddie to visit so Buster (Custus, Shulers owner) set me up like I wasnít from Philly. So Iím in here with Eddie so heís like, 'go call Yusaf (Mack), Najai (Turpin), and all them and tell them we got some work for them'. Iím like you calling people like I donít know them, Iím from Philly."
However Shulers became his home and his place to start his pro boxing career. Davis talks with pride about the gym where some of Phillyís best and toughest apply their craft and everyone involved is behind each other in a manner you donít see in every gym.
"But I always like it down here because to me personally, Shulers Gym is more than just a boxing gym. Itís a family environment. You got a lot of great talent here. Dhafir Smith, Yusaf Mack, Steve Cun-ningham, Brother Naazim. This gym has everything you want in here. Karl Dargan, outstanding amateur. The list just goes on. I fell in love with it from the day I came down here. Itís a lot of experience that comes down here that you can gradually learn from.
Buster, heís been the mentor to us from early on in my career. Even now he still talks to me, helps me out. Heís like an advisor; he looks out for all of us in his own way. Me personally, I feel Iím real close with him, his wife, his daughters, I love them, just one big family."
It was at this point that he met his trainer Sharron Baker and moved forward as a pro. Baker did his conditioning for his first pro fight, then took over as his trainer for his second fight. She has been with him ever since. It has been nearly ten years since Davis had that first pro fight. He speaks candidly about where he wanted to be and how he has not lived up to his own expectations thus far.
"I think everybody who boxes has plans on being done at the age of thirty or made a certain amount of money so that you would be comfortable at the age of thirty. Thatís when you lose your hunger. For me to still be pushing it here at thirty one, I didnít achieve anything that I had plans on achieving when I was younger."
"Iím not proud of my career, Iím not proud of a lot of the things that happened in my career. I derailed myself. My losses itís not because of the information I was given. Itís because of my belief in my performance. A lot of outside distractions played a part."
Baker is just as blunt in her assessment of his career at this point.
"Iím not satisfied with what heís done. As he just said, he did fall off. He had a lapse in his focus and was just going through the motions to box. I just couldnít reach him at that time, but he had to dig inside himself and find what he really wanted to do. I told him do some soul searching and if this is what you really want to do then Iím with you. If not then go get a job and sit down. Donít waste my time, donít waste your time, and donít get hurt. You got kids. I got to look them in their face. Iím not going to be able to look them in their face if you get hurt because youíre not doing what you supposed to do."
"He let personal things impair what he needed to do here. Thatís the bottom line. Too many personal obstructions derail what he needed to do here. Once he got that squared away, he was able to hit the gym door and leave that back there to focus on what we need to do here, then everything changed."
Not that Davis has not had his moments and gained a wealth of experience along the way. He has been in with some of boxingís best and in some tough close bouts. Davis has been in the ring with Peter Quillin, Joel Julio, and Gabriel Rosado amongst others. He has given all of them a tough fight, but knows if he was at his best he could have given more.
"Itís been a crazy experience. I was just telling somebody today Iíve been in a lot of fights and I feel as though I have been in a lot of wars. You know some people they are carried in their career. They are put in certain fights whereas though, I guess itís like a Philly thing, some of us just get stuck going up the hard way. We have to fight to prove who we are and what we can do."
"I fought a lot of guns. Julio. Julio was the first person that ever had me hurt. I had to find myself in order to get back in the fight. I felt as though I did it even when I was thinking about taking a knee and taking the eight count I still stood tall and stuff which is that Philly pride. You got to stay smart and keep that from happening."
Itís fitting that Jamaalís nickname is "Da Truth" because he speaks the truth without any excuses. Davis and his trainer believe strongly that many of his losses were not from being in with a better talent but from Jamaal not being fully at his best.
While many athletes will downplay the low points, Davis simply states the points of his career that he paid the price for not being as focused on training and his craft as is required to be successful.
Davis looks back on past fights such as against Quillin and Julio where he simply didnít do what he is capable of doing and now has to watch while those fighters go on to bigger things he has not has the chance to experience.
"Every loss is a low point. You fall into a deep depression sometimes behind it. Depending on who you are. If you comfortable with losing you just take the "L" and keep it moving. But me personally, itís hard to come back in the gym and you look at Sharron and sheís just like 'oh here we go again'. Letís go do this, letís go work on this."
"You got people like Peter Quillin, when I fought him, he looked like a goon when he fought his last fight. He was in there trying to kill the guy. He was doing his thing, but when we fought he was doing something different. You seen him real cautious; you seen him scared to do certain things. You see me just shadowboxing on the stage, not being aggressive and not following through with stuff. So that was disappointing because you see where these people are now and youíre like, damn I fought him.
Then you got Joel Julio. When I fought him I was like damn, we can knock him out and get a good win. But here it is again on a big stage. Got hurt. I didnít stick to the plan. I stop responding to my corner the way they wanted me to respond. I was hearing them but wasnít focused. It was like now those was just low points.
Through the ups and downs Baker has been by his side. The trainer who presents as a mother figure to the rugged fighter remains loyal while giving him "Da Truth" when it is required.
"So right now I feel Iím working to achieve these things," Davis said. "I have the drive to be there. I had to focus on my training. I know at times itís been hard on her, she could be doing other things but sheís right here in the gym with me. You not gonna find that with too many trainers. Not everybody is as dedicated to their craft trying to see success out of their athletes as she is. She pushes. There's times when we go back and forth but itís her push that keeps me going. After I leave here Iíll go home and chill for a minute. Then Iíll go running and be thinking about stuff she said, stuff brother Nazim said, have that constantly in my ear. They know how talented I am and want me to believe in myself in order to get these things done."
It may have been that belief in himself that Davis needed to gain before he could achieve the goals he set for himself long ago. And although it may have taken nearly ten years for Jamaal to gain that belief, perhaps the true dedication to his craft needed to be successful has come with it.
In February 2011, Davis was stopped by Gabriel Rosado in a true Philly war. Davis fought well and was winning on many ringside cards heading into the late rounds, but Rosado came on strong at the end and scored the twelfth round stoppage. Following that fight Davis fought to a draw five months later with Eberto Medina in a bout where Davis looked sluggish and hardly the talent that gave Rosado everything he could handle. It was gut check time for the veteran boxer, and time to decide if this is what he wanted to do with his life. Something started clicking and something started working. He got the chance to avenge the poor performance against Medina ten months later and won a hard fought decision.
"I have the heart to fight, we all know that. We all know I can fight but you have to believe in yourself. My last two performances have been me believing and me being focused mentally where I want to be. So right now Iím focused and Iím mentally where I want to be."
"The rematch I was hyped because I felt I wasnít as strong in the first fight and everybody didnít really get to see the first fight the way I really wanted them to see it. So when I fought him the second time I was real hyped and real angry and I just wanted to make a point."
Davis kept on rolling in his next fight winning a wide unanimous decision over veteran tough guy Doel Carrasquillo on the NBC Sports Night series in June of last year. It wasnít that Davis won; it was how he did it. He was cool, he was calm, he was focused. He put on what is likely his best performance so far as a pro. The fighter who looked like he might be spent less than a year before suddenly looked like a youthful talent. Davis agreed that the Carrasquillo fight was his high point so far as a pro.
"The best moment was my last fight. The reason was it was on TV and everybody seen it so you see I can box, you see Iím very smart, I can listen to my corner."
Baker agrees and in that last fight finally got what she wanted from her charge - to follow the plan she set out and ride it to victory.
"That was the first time he really followed my instructions to a tee. I was so proud of him; he actually followed all my instructions to a tee. I knew at the end of that fight, if you watch that fight you could hear it over the monitors you could hear me saying they canít deny us this one. Because we did get a couple of bad decisions, but you canít cry about that because on the record an "L" is an "L"."
While he looked good against Carrasquillo, both state he can do more as Baker answered the question with an emphatic "yes" and Davis stated "a lot better".
So now at thirty one years of age with more than fifteen years in the sport Davis will look to put it all together this Saturday in Atlantic City. It wonít be easy. His opponent Patrick Majewski is a big strong middleweight who will have the size advantage over Davis, who moves up in weight to 160. Throw in the fact the Polish native Majewski now makes his home in AC. He will have his regular crowd support and the typical hometown advantages that always play a role in boxing.
Davis will have to be at his best physically and mentally. Even if he has found his groove as he and his trainer believe, it may still not be enough if the fight goes the distance. Baker talked about the factors in and out of the ring that could derail their efforts.
"Heís ranked in the top ten in the WBC and fifteen in the WBO. Itís a very tough challenge. Heís a tough durable kid. Heís not going to stop coming, we welcome that. Iím ready; I prepared him to be ready for whatever. All he has to do is perform. Heís got the information, weíve done the work. Had a good camp, had a lot of different sparring. As I said, heís definitely ready."
On needing a knockout to win Baker stated, "Yeah, I do because Majewski like Adamek never loses in New Jersey. When they lose they donít lose. You know if the judging is fair and we lose, which I donít anticipate, I donít have a problem, but I just feel that Iím a little leery about going to the cards."
For his part, Davis believes this is a must win, a fight that will determine at what level he belongs in the boxing landscape.
"This fight is a must win. I mean it makes a lot of the decisions for my future. A win here is going to tell you whether I belong with the C and B class fighters versus shooting straight to the A class fighters. Itís a game of chess. Itís a marathon, not a sprint. So right now came a time, my losses prepared for growth. Either prepared me to be better or just prepared me to say I boxed at one point, continue with my nine to five, (but) I donít have that in me. I love this. It's crazy."
"I've asked people that stop boxing what they become so comfortable with in life that lets them stop boxing if they love it as much as they say. Right now I just love it. I feel as though Iím in my growth stage. I found myself in my last performances. This one right here is going to determine a lot."
Davis has ten years in the sport he would like to have back but at just past thirty years of age, he has time to right the ship. He is clearly confident that he is on the right path and in a better place mentally and physically than ever before.
Saturday he gets his chance to show that his actions will support his words. And he will have plenty of support behind him despite being in his opponentís hometown. He will enter the ring with a new found confidence and focus, along with his two families, his home family and his Shulers family.
"I want to thank Sharron, my Shulers family, Buster, Jazz, Crystal, Brother Naazim, Dhafir, Yusaf, everybody from the Concrete Jungle, everybody that helped me out and showed strong support. Itís not easy. We deal with a lot personally to get ready, and these people pushing helps us get through it. So I want thank everybody that supported us, showed me love, and helped us get out here and my wife Tamika."