A healthy Jamel Herring is a problem for anyone in the junior lightweight division.
The message was emphatically delivered by the reigning WBO titlist in his most recent title defense, a 6th round stoppage of former two-division champ Carl Frampton (28-3, 16KOs). Herring overcame Covid and no fewer than four fight postponements in making his way to Dubai and registering his best career win to date.
“This time around, I [was] rested and energized and [felt] the difference,” Herring told BoxingScene.com. “We were smart. I took my break between training camps when I was supposed to, went home and spent time with my family before returning for my full camp. Even with all of the setbacks, there was still a positive mindset.”
The bout was originally due to take place last June in Frampton’s Belfast hometown, only for the event to get canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both boxers were granted separate stay-busy fights, though proving more harm than good in terms of Herring’s appeal.
The 35-year-old southpaw from the Coram section of Long Island, New York tested positive ahead of a planned July 2 voluntary title defense versus Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo. The bout was pushed back by two weeks, only for Herring (23-2, 11KOs) to once again produce a positive test which was revealed prior to their weigh-in. Another delay pushed back the fight to last September, where Herring prevailed by 8th round disqualification though left with a cut over his eye and a swarm of criticism surrounding the fight itself and the manner in which it ended.
“It seems like forever but this time around I played it smart,” recalled Herring. “Last time I trained for a fight, I got sick but had to stay where I was so that I didn’t spread it to my family. So, I was in camp where I was supposed to be resting. But there was nothing else to do so I still worked out, not giving my body a break.
“I was training from April all the way through. You saw it in the Oquendo fight, with all the setbacks.”
In terms of pre-fight buildup, it worked in favor of Frampton who was viewed by some sportsbooks as a betting favorite while most hailed the fight as a virtual pick-‘em. Additional concern was raised when Herring opted to arrive in the Middle East barely a week ahead of the fight.
Once the bell sounded, it was clear that Herring was well equipped for the most significant fight—and win–of his pro career. Frampton was outclassed from the start, doing his best to make a fight of it only to suffer knockdowns in rounds five and six. Herring overcame a cut over his right eye, fighting through the sight of his own blood to prove his worth in a top-heavy 130-pound division.
The only better scenario would have been for the fight to have taken place when it was originally scheduled, if only to give Herring a better chance of further enhancing his title reign.
“If we fought last June, I’d have been right on course,” notes Herring. “It didn’t work out that way, though, so we just went with the flow. My team (including head trainer Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre) knew when to pull me back and I respected when they made that call.
“So, whether in June or now I think it would have been the same—me successfully defending my title.”
Herring registered the third defense of the title he has held since May 2019. The latest effort marked his first time fighting outside of the United States since the 2012 London Olympics, for which Herring served as team captain of the U.S. Olympic boxing team.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox