TRASH talk does, sometimes, work. Jamel Herring did not originally have Shakur Stevenson in his sights. But when the young American called him out, Herring decided he wasn’t going to back down from the challenge.
“Jamel Herring ducks nobody,” the former US Marine declared. “For me it’s for bragging rights. As you know we’re both close with Terence Crawford, we both personally know each other. After this we’ll probably come across each other a lot more in the future. You always want to have that upper hand on someone that you will likely see a lot down the road. It’s another big fight.”
Accepting the fight, for State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Saturday (October 23), dispels the accusation that Herring wanted to swerve this opponent. “I think everyone was trying to say that because my initial plan was actually to move up after the [Carl] Frampton fight because I felt that there was nothing much I could do, unless I could get the [Óscar] Valdez fight. But when I started hearing the roars, saying that I was ducking and I was afraid, that’s when I answered the call and said you know what, I think I’ll stick around a little bit longer. But there’s no bad blood. We’re just very competitive and want to prove who’s the best,” he told Boxing News. “He’s a real good fighter. I think Shakur’s a really, really good fighter. Even with all the negativity that you may have seen, I have never taken anything from him as a fighter, he’s a real good fighter and I know it’s not going to be an easy fight. But I know myself and I’m up for the task.
“It’s going to be a good fight and I’m just honoured to be in another big fight in a big year for my career.”
The key moment for Herring in his stop-start career was his victory over Carl Frampton in April. Jamel went into it under pressure. Not only had he previously had fights cancelled due to Covid, he was heavily criticised after he was unable to continue with a cut he sustained in his 2020 fight with Jonathan Oquendo, winning that by disqualification.
“It affected me a lot because people don’t understand what I had to go through. Like, I went to the hospital because they thought I had a broken orbital bone. My retina was actually scratched. That’s why [my vision] was kind of blurred. Before then I was suffering through Covid. So I was going through everything and people weren’t giving me any slack. But I didn’t complain, I didn’t cry. If anything all I did was go back to the drawing board and just work as hard as I possibly can and make a statement,” he said.
Even the Frampton fight was delayed when Carl picked up a hand injury, and the location was also switched from London to Dubai. “I didn’t criticise Carl, he had a hand injury at the time. Because I knew how it feels for a fight to be postponed and pushed back. So I just waited patiently and I’m just glad that we finally got in the ring and did what we had to do,” he said.
But he added, “I was actually upset because I miss fighting in the UK. Since the 2012 London Olympic Games I’ve wanted to return to London because it’s a familiar place. I didn’t mind fighting over there [in the UK] again, I still don’t mind fighting there again now. But overall Dubai wasn’t bad either. I was just happy that we finally got in the ring and handled our business.”
He answered any lingering doubts about him in that fight, putting Frampton down in the fifth round before dropping and stopping him in the sixth. “I think it was in that fifth round he came out and I threw a straight left hand and he just dropped. I kind of had his attention then. It was up to me to go out there and finish what I started in the sixth. I knew I had his respect early but I knew for sure I definitely had his full attention in the fifth round,” Herring said. “I actually did surprise myself. I was actually expecting a long, gruelling fight because I knew the type of competitor he is. He’s not a man to be taken lightly. I don’t care about the size and the advantages that people have pointed out. Carl Frampton can always beat me in the experience department and he’s been in many world championship fights, so I was actually quite surprised with how it ended. Overall I’m just glad that I put on a great performance because I was going through a lot myself from the fight previous to that. I’m just happy with the result of course and I look forward to great performances.”
Frampton is a hugely popular figure in boxing and his legacy in the sport is secure. Herring might be his last conqueror but the American has nothing but respect for the man. “I think he did more for me than I could do for him. Even though he wanted to become a three-divisional world champion [Herring holds a WBO belt], for him allowing it, for him to share the ring with me was a huge honour. I always tipped my hat to him for that. I could have fought anyone else at the time. He stepped up to the plate and he wanted to do something great as well. So I’ll always be a fan of Carl Frampton’s. I was a fan before the fight and I’m still a fan now,” Jamel said. “It was a huge victory because I have tremendous respect for Carl Frampton because of what he’s done for the sport of boxing. Three-time world champion, two division world champion, he’s a unified world champion. So it was a huge honour just to share the ring with a great man such as himself. It was business and nothing personal, I’m just glad to see that Carl’s doing well and carrying on with his life.”
It’s fired up Herring for this next bout too. “The Frampton fight took me to another level so of course I’m highly motivated for it. I’m just looking forward towards getting back in there,” he said. “This is why I don’t look to much from my past or recent fights. Because every challenge is a different challenge so you’ve have to approach it in a different way. With that being said, yes I’m grateful for how the Frampton fight played out but that’s in the past now. Now if I want to keep my title, I have to focus on what’s next and that’s Shakur Stevenson.”
He wants to leave his own mark on 2021 now. “It’s very important,” he said. “I actually want just to have my name mentioned with fighter of the year after having a great year, and after that I just want to unify the division and become the lineal champion. So it’s very important for me. It’s very important. Not just to say that I shared the ring with him, I want to win this fight so I can continue on doing great things in boxing.”
Herring is ranked second at super-feather and he wouldn’t rule out boxing the unranked Óscar Valdez, even though the latter failed a drug test ahead of his most recent fight and lost his place in the BN ratings. “Things happened. He owned up to it. It’s kind of hard, it’s kind of rough but Óscar comes off as a good guy so I have nothing bad to say about him. We’ve spoken in the past. I hope he just learns from it. I don’t have to say anything because he took a lot of criticism from the media and the fans alone. I don’t have to really jump in there and say much about it. But hopefully he learned from it and from here on out he has a smooth clean career going forward,” Herring said.
He insists he would have no qualms about fighting Valdez. “Not at all. The main thing of course I would like rigorous testing for both of us. I had testing for this fight. I want to prove I’m a clean fighter. Of course it’s obviously something you have to consider looking at a lot closer in the future. But like I said, he faced it, he faced it head on, he had to go through it in fight week. In the fight it was probably on his mind. But definitely I’m not going to sit there and nitpick about things as long as we both get a fair shake and everyone does their part, from cleaning the sport up to getting in the ring and giving fair judging,” he insisted.
He chooses to emphasise the importance of drug testing broadly. “Especially for these big fights. We’ve seen too many fighters in the past in recent memory end up severely injured or lost their lives because fighters were coming up dirty and it’s just not right. At the end of the day, boxing is a sport. You want to keep it a sport, fan friendly and clean. You don’t want it to come down to a life or death situation because someone was cheating to get the upper hand. I’d just like to say, I just hope that we clean the sport up, look at it a lot closer now, clean it up after the Valdez situation,” he said.
“I’m a husband, I’m a father, I want to go home to my family in one piece and I want to continue living my life without having to deal with injuries or causes from a fight because a fighter may have fought dirty.”