Jamel Herring respects and appreciates what the WBO has done for his career.
The WBO junior lightweight champion still doesn’t intend to allow a mandatory title defense against Shakur Stevenson stand in the way of the fight Herring really wants now that he has beaten Carl Frampton. If that means giving up his WBO belt to oppose Oscar Valdez later this year, Herring has no problem taking that route.
The WBO has granted Herring 30 days from his sixth-round technical knockout of Frampton on Saturday night in Dubai to commit to facing the winner of a probable June 12 elimination bout between Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) and Namibia’s Jeremiah Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs) later this year. Stevenson, a Newark, New Jersey, native, is ranked number one by the WBO in the 130-pound division, one spot atop the second-ranked Nakathila.
“The WBO’s been great to me,” Herring told BoxingScene.com. “They gave me the opportunity when I fought [Masayuki] Ito. I wasn’t the mandatory and they put me in position where they gave me a shot. I’ll always be grateful to the WBO, but I’m at the point where I’m fighting for my own legacy. And if they take the title, I understand because Shakur has been patient and the WBO has been patient. We’ve seen the postponements with this fight with Frampton. If it happens, it happens. So be it, but it still puts me in line not only to win another top sanctioning body title, the WBC, but also the lineal championship.
“So, there’s more, either way, that comes with the Oscar Valdez fight regardless. If you’re not looking at Gervonta Davis, you’re looking at Oscar Valdez as the number one guy [at 130 pounds]. I’d rather be known for fighting the top guy and becoming a two-time world champion and the lineal world champion any day.”
Herring, Stevenson and Valdez all are promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., but it isn’t clear if Valdez would be interested in facing Herring if Herring relinquishes the WBO belt because it wouldn't be a title unification fight. If Stevenson were to win the vacant WBO title by beating Nakathila, Valdez might view the 2016 Olympic silver medalist as a more attractive opponent than Herring.
The 35-year-old Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) also could be offered a career-high, seven-figure payday to defend his title versus Stevenson.
“It’s a big fight and I know it’ll pay well, of course,” Herring said. “But the Valdez fight trumps that. It’ll pay more and then there’s more of a reward on the back end for my career. OK, say we fight Shakur and we beat Shakur, people are gonna look at it and they’re gonna find something to downplay it anyway – something. ‘Oh, he was young,’ or you know, something.
“Valdez, he was a featherweight champion who defended his title on multiple occasions, he beat the most dangerous guy in the division [Miguel Berchelt] and, you know, he’s the number one guy to many people that look at the junior lightweight division. So why not go for that? It’s nothing against Shakur. I’m a fan of Shakur. I think Shakur’s one of the best fighters out there. But when you look at resumes, you know, you’d have to say Oscar Valdez makes more sense right now.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.