Boxing manager J. J. speaks with Prince about his close relationship with Shakur Stevenson, a rising star. Prince is also the CEO at Rap-A-Lot Records and has worked alongside Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather over the years. Video (3:14).
Emotionally high after a large payday, Shakur Stevenson felt it was time for an ice cream.
After cruising past Jeremiah Nakathila, he had just won the WBO interim junior lightweight championship. He was just 24 years old. Stevenson chose to spoil himself by buying a diamond-encrusted, chunky chain that featured his initials, SS as a flashy charm.
Stevenson was a sucker for luxury. James Prince (aka J.), Stevenson's co-manager, was against him. Prince wanted to put things into perspective.
"I wanted to buy another chain. But I didn’t have a home yet. Stevenson spoke of Prince, saying that he didn't know I had any of the set. Stevenson said that Prince is more important than buying a few chains, jewelry, and watches.
"I was thinking, "I'm trying out to look good here." He explained, "I'm trying to have the chain." "But, I actually listened and that was the best decision I made now that I am in this situation. It's nice to have my own place that I can go to and live in, it makes me feel secure. I was definitely guided by him."
This relationship and the guidance that it brought began many years ago, when Stevenson, a former amateur boxer, met Prince through Antonio Leonard, a mutual friend. Stevenson and Prince played pool, stayed at Prince's home, and formed a friendship through casual conversation.
As Stevenson won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games, they became closer. Stevenson claims that Prince did not pursue him to be his manager. Instead, a relationship was formed through discussions about boxing history. Talks began to develop about personal business plans. However, it was Prince's personable nature that ultimately convinced Stevenson to sign with him.
Stevenson is originally from New Jersey and now lives in Houston. This is the same city that Prince established his empire as a founder and CEO at Rap-A-Lot Records.
His business acumen inspired fellow Southern hip-hop entrepreneurs like Master P of No Limit Records, Birdman of Cash Money Records, as well as J. Prince mentored renowned rap artists Scarface, Bun B and Drake along the way.
"When you speak about J. Master P said that Prince is the "godfather of all this." "When it comes to hip-hop, and even boxing, I've seen many great managers but I haven’t seen a Black man in this position. People want you as their leader, and they love a guy who's going to fight for the people that he loves," Master P said.
Prince has fought for Stevenson. Prince and Josh Dubin feel that the stage that he is on right now is the one they had in mind for their boxer since the beginning of their business. Saturday's fight will see Stevenson (16 KOs, 8 KOs), taking on Jamel Herring (23-2; 11 KOs). Herring will defend his WBO junior lightweight title at the State Farm Arena, Atlanta.
"Right now is the perfect time. The work is complete. Prince stated that the development is complete and it's now time to claim what's ours. We've been in the spotlight for a while, and things have happened that were not our fault. But we are looking forward to Atlanta, one of my favorite places down South. We're going to deliver this man the best ass whooping of their lives. Straight up."
J. manages Shakur Stevenson. Prince and Josh Dubin. Abiel Garcia
PRINCE was already a successful individual well before he started boxing. After achieving great success with legends such as Scarface and the Geto Boys, Devin the Dude and Tela, he created the blueprint for Southern independent rapper labels when he founded Rap-A-Lot Records.
He wasn't content. He was a boxer his entire life. He loved to box as a child and he still loves to watch boxers. He decided that he wanted to become a manager in the boxing industry.
Prince opened a Houston boxing gym around the turn of this century. Prince then, as he does with the most important decisions in his life, got down on his knees and prayed to God to make him a champion boxer.
He traveled to Las Vegas in 1999 to set up a meeting for Mike Tyson. But his trip took an unexpected twist. Prince was approached repeatedly by Floyd Mayweather, a young Floyd Mayweather fan, while he was in a Vegas gym.
Prince and Mayweather had a brief exchange of information. Tyson then ghosted Prince after they met, and Prince started working with Mayweather. Prince's relationship with Mayweather lasted only until 2003. This was due to financial conflicts. However, Prince said that the highlight of their partnership was Mayweather's encouragement to fight Diego Corrales, an unbeaten boxer, in 2001. After Mayweather had dropped Corrales five times, Mayweather defeated Mayweather in the 10th round. Mayweather won by TKO.
"Me and Floyd are cool right now. We are cool. We communicate. Prince stated that they have mutual respect. Prince said, "I'm proud to have been a part of his success and I appreciate the chance that he has given me. He gave me my first boxing opportunity and I haven't looked back." ... He told me that he loves and appreciates me because he knows what I have done for his career. Both of us are in a peaceful place in our lives.
Prince gained credibility by working with Mayweather to manage other boxers, as well as a few other champions. Prince has coached Winky Wright, Andre Ward and Stevenson. He currently has more than 15 fighters in his JPrince Boxing stable, with Stevenson and rising heavyweight Jared “Big Baby” Anderson being the most prominent.
Protecting your fighter is one of the most important roles of a manager. Prince stated that you must protect your fighter in multiple ways. Prince said that boxing is a robbery business just like entertainment. Many promoters have taken advantage of fighters over the years and even centuries. As a manager, one of my goals was to stop the [promoters] from cheating [their fighters] out of their hard-earned cash after they enter the ring.
Scarface was certain that Prince would succeed when he made the decision to become a music mogul and a boxing manager.
James is a calculated person. His moves are a result of a lot thought and wisdom. Scarface stated that he doesn't do things on a whim. Scarface said, "The wins and the losses... everything." He knows everything.
After being raised in Houston by his grandparents, Scarface credits Prince with helping him succeed in the rap world. As Prince was the inspiration for many young boxers, he also looked after Scarface and helped him succeed. Although they have had many ups and downs, mostly through business, their brotherhood is strong today.
Scarface stated, "I couldn’t have done it without him and vice versa when I ask him." It couldn't have happened any other way.
play 3:14 Boxing manager J. Prince talks to ESPN about his close relationship with J., the Boxing manager. Prince talks to ESPN about his close relationship with Shakur Stevenson, a rising star. Prince is also the CEO at Rap-A-Lot Records and has worked alongside Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward over the years. Video
WARD WAS 18 years old and had just lost the father of his child to sudden cardiac arrest in 2002. He received a cold calling from Prince.
Ward had, surprisingly, missed a national tournament in boxing and his love of the sport was rapidly fading without his father.
Prince heard Ward's potential, and sought him out. Prince spoke openly with Ward on the phone and he told him that he wasn't sure if he wants to continue boxing. He wanted to make sense of his life.
Ward was told by Prince that "I believe your gift is to wear that ring" and that Prince would love to see Ward wearing it again. "I don’t know you but I hear it’s something we can overcome."
After that first encounter, their relationship blossomed. Ward won the 2004 Olympics gold medal and decided to sign with Prince. Ward attributes Prince to helping him get back on track during that difficult time. Ward fell back in love with the sport thanks to Prince.
It wasn't always easy. As with Mayweather's Mayweather lawsuit, Prince and Ward had a difficult financial dispute. After a dispute over Prince's contract, Ward filed suit against him in 2008. Prince responded to the suit by filing a lawsuit in his defense.
They were only active for a month as they negotiated during a California meeting. Their pastors navigated the discussion for many hours. They came to an agreement in the end. The conversation became complicated when large sums of money were involved.
Ward stated, "I fought just the same hard outside the rings, just as much as I did inside them, and I just wanted J understand that." It took a lawsuit to get his attention. But at that point, we began speaking to each other and not just past one another.
Prince is a smart businessman who has earned respect over the years. Ward said that Prince cares deeply about his fighters, despite financial difficulties.
"J's impact runs deep. Ward stated that his roots in the game are deep and the impact he makes, a lot, is not seen very often because they're offline. "Trying to help individuals such as myself, Shakur, and others with their personal lives, their finances and taxes, their lifestyles and relationships, and just helping them navigate these things. Those things don't make the news.
J. Prince (right), has managed many boxing champions including Andre Ward and Shakur Stevenson. Courtesy Shakur Stevenson
The depth of Prince's concern for his employees is deep. This is now evident in Stevenson's relationship with Prince.
Prince mixes hip-hop and boxing often, as when he invites Stevenson and Scarface to his home for card games.
He's a star. Scarface laughed while referring to Stevenson. He's a helluva fighter and one of the greatest, but when he comes to the spades table alongside me, he's second."
Stevenson has heard stories about Prince's no-nonsense reputation from Ward and Mayweather. Stevenson doesn't fear Prince, however. He admires him.
Stevenson's relationship with Herring is just one reason he is in the position that he is to challenge Herring for his crown. Prince has given Stevenson the support and guidance he needed. He has protected Stevenson from getting into fights too quickly, from making poor investments, and from letting stardom take over his head.
Prince worked with many sports stars over the years to keep Stevenson on track. Prince did not put a diamond necklace on his shoulders.
"I was the youngest of nine children. Stevenson stated that my whole dream and everything began from wanting to provide for my family. "I suppose, as you get older and things like that, you lose sight of some things that are truly more important than any other. J is a great example of how to get back on track. He will show you why you are doing this. It's inspiring to see how he interacts with his family. When I grow up, I want to be the same with my family.
It's deeper than business. J treats me like a family member. He said that it felt to him like he treated me like his son." "He has his own sons, so it makes me feel comfortable and welcome to be around him."