Five years ago, every boxing reporter wanted to interview him after Barry McGuigan made him his first signing as a manager.
Looking back, James says he was “overwhelmed” by the attention and while former sparring partner Carl Frampton has climbed into world-title contention, he’s split with McGuigan, been beaten and written off.
Given the chance to turn the clock back, James admits he would do things differently, but the 30 year-old still has everything to fight for.
If he beats Chris Male in Walsall a week on Saturday (NOV 16), it could lead to a crack at the British super-featherweight title – and he expects a good-luck message from McGuigan before “a very, very important fight.”
They stay in contact via Twitter and James admitted: “I was overwhelmed that Barry wanted to work with me when I turned pro.
“I’m just a kid from Cov and suddenly I was working with a big name and getting all this publicity.
“A lot of people were talking about me and there was a lot of expectancy as well.
“I did have a lot of knock-outs as an amateur, but I was fighting novices.
“I only boxed two open-class lads and I could have done with more experience at a higher level in the amateurs.
“I turned pro at 25 thinking it was now or never, but I could have had another two years at open-class level in the amateurs, fighting every week against every different style.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if I won or lost. I would have been learning my trade.”
James instead learned his trade in the professional ring – and the gym.
He’s won Midlands Area honours, given unbeaten Terry Flannigan his toughest fight for the English belt and although out of action since June, he’s been learning sparring the likes of Anthony Crolla and Joe Costello, a former world-class amateur.
“I’ve done a lot of sparring with good lads in the last few months and I’ve come on so much,” said James.
“I’ve sparred movers, guys who come forward, every style, so I’m prepared for whatever Male brings.”
Male has a high-tempo style that’s taken him to 12 wins in 13 fights.
The only loss on his record was inflicted by Josh Warrington in an English-title fight and Warrington was last weekend crowned Commonwealth champion.
The winner of next weekend’s fight will take a step nearer a crack at the British super-featherweight title, currently held by Stephen Smith.
“I know this is a must-win fight,” added James. “The British title will be so close if I win, but if I lose, it will take me months to get back into contention.”