Every time Jamal James moved close, his kidney paid the price. Antonio DeMarco, a former champion, signaled his brawling strategy with every curling right hand.

The southpaw would attack James’ lean frame, especially his ribs, leaving James’ back looking as if he had stayed under a sun lamp too long.

To win this fight, James, the welterweight contender from Minneapolis, would have to accept punishment without abandoning his strengths: mobility, piercing jabs and dance-floor footwork.

So he waded in, took the shots, and countered with flurries, and by the end of the night the crowd at the Armory was shouting familiar slogans:

“Shango” — James’ nickname. “Circle of Discipline” — James’ gym. And “Where’s my belt?” — James’ current and increasingly relevant motto.

By peppering DeMarco and earning a unanimous decision Saturday night, in front of a loud crowd of 3,170 in downtown Minneapolis, James and his camp believe they have positioned themselves to fight for a championship.