Jamel Herring Stays Chill As Shakur Gets More Into Heel Mode



Jamel Herring Stays Chill As Shakur Gets More Into Heel Mode

It’s interesting, how fan sentiment has changed, noticeably, and more and more boxing fans are being vocal about how they don’t care for the public personality of Shakur Stevenson.

That’s a trend that has been present for some time, but is made more glaring by the fact that when contrasted with Jamel Herring, young Stevenson appears, well, young, and immature and defensive.

Stevenson barking at respected vet (boxing AND military) earned Shakur more haters. Maybe he’s fine with that, and he’s embracing a Mayweather type push toward an unapologetic cocky manner to build his brand. (Christina Merrion pic)

The two will fight it out tomorrow night in Atlanta, on ESPN, atop a Top Rank card, so we saw them at a Thursday press conference, and that got us thinking more about their respective personas.

“It’s going to feel real good beating the whole team,” Stevenson said at the presser. “I can’t wait to go against {Herring trainers Brian McIntyre and Red Spikes}. It’s not just Jamel that I’m fighting. I’ve got to beat Bomac and Red, and it’ll feel good doing that.”

No, Shakur doesn’t own or use a filter which would eliminate some of his abrasive pronouncements.

Shakur can come off like a cocky jerk at times, but you suspect that’s actually his insecurity showing itself.

Some hear and read that and shrug, while others see it as being representative of Shakur’s manner as he negotiates how it feels to be an ultra talented but not universally beloved boxing talent.

I asked Herring Friday morning about the presser, and Shakur yapping at him, and how it affected him. “I was literally unfazed or bothered by it to be honest,” he said. “Just another day in the boxing world. Only thing that matters is Saturday’s results.”

Herring is hard to hate. (Christina Merrion pic)

That sort of answer is to be expected from Herring. Shakur is 24 and we see that he has dealt with anger management and frustration tolerance issues. Herring is 35, and has copious experience in how to operate in a complex and imperfect world.

“It was very hard for him to lock eyes with me,” Herring continued. “I didn’t say anything, didn’t care for what he or his entourage was saying, I just wanted to stare him down, and he refused to do it. Kept saying he wasn’t scared, but was more interested in everyone behind me. I respect him as a fighter, but I’m done with all the talking at this point.”

And of the fight… How does Herring see things playing out from the starting block? “I think the fight starts off as a typical chess match but at some point someone will have to step on the gas and I think that’ll be me,” he said, “stepping on the gas pedal.”

Yep, the talking, and focus on personas and demeanors and such will recede, and now skills will speak loudest. Shakur has an edge over Herring in that realm…but sometimes character can be a tie breaker in a tight fight. Shakur is the justifiable favorite to beat Herring, but assuming it’s a lock for the kid is unwise.

Here is the release Top Rank sent out after the presser. Embedded in the release are photos taken by Christina Merrion.

ATLANTA (Oct. 21, 2021)—They started as acquaintances, but once Jamel Herring acquired the belt Shakur Stevenson wanted, the friendly vibes went out the window. Herring will defend his WBO junior lightweight world title against former featherweight champion Stevenson on Saturday night from State Farm Arena in Atlanta (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10:30 p.m. ET).

Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) has made three defenses of the title he won from Masayuki Ito in May 2019. Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is considered by many to be the heir to the pound-for-pound throne. He picked up the interim world title in June with a dominant decision over Jeremiah Nakathila.

When Herring and Stevenson had their final faceoff, the fighters and their teams exchanged verbal barbs, with Stevenson grabbing Herring's belt on multiple occasions. They were separated and will resume the jawing at Friday's weigh-in.

It is quite possible being a father will serve to settle Shakur.

The ESPN main card will also feature Puerto Rican star Xander Zayas (10-0, 7 KOs) in a six-round junior middleweight bout against Dan Karpency, and the second pro bout for middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of “The Greatest.

The ESPN+ undercard stream (7:30 p.m. ET) will showcase junior middleweight prospect Evan Holyfield (7-0, 5 KOs), son of Atlanta legend and former four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased at

At Thursday's final press conference, this is what the combatants had to say.

Jamel Herring

“The odds just play to my story. I’ve always been an underdog, not just in boxing but in life, so I don’t get into the oddsmaker thing. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“It’s not personal, it’s just business. We’re building a fight is all it means to me. I’ve heard worse and been through worse. We’re just two top competitors in the division trying to prove who is the best.”

“It just feels like another elite level fight in a loaded and talented division, so we just take it one fight at a time. We put all personal feelings to the side and just go to work and do what we have to do.”

“Atlanta is cool. I have family out here. My sons live out here as well. It’s another home and it’s an honor just to be fighting in the State Farm Arena because there’s not a lot of fights coming into town, so whenever you can bring a special fight to a certain city, it’s always a great thing.”

Shakur Stevenson

“It means everything to me. This is my first time being able to go against a champion and being able to take a champion's belt will mean a lot to me…. and I can’t wait to hear them say, “AND THE NEW!'”

“It’s definitely not personal, just business at the end of the day. He’s not my friend. I don’t hit him up and say, ‘let’s fight.'” We don’t have any conversations. I don’t talk to Jamel Herring outside of boxing.”

“It’s going to feel real good beating the whole team. I can’t wait to go against {Herring trainers Brian McIntyre and Red Spikes}. It’s not just Jamel that I’m fighting. I’ve got to beat Bomac and Red, and it’ll feel good doing that.”

“You’re going to see a special night, my coming out party. It’s going to be a great night, and he said he’s going to spoil the party, so let’s see if he can do it.”

Xander Zayas

Did you read the Abe Gonzalez feature on the 10-0 Xander Zayas? (Christina Merrion pic)

“I’m grateful to be here. It’s just an amazing experience to be 19 years old making my ESPN debut. I’m ready to go, and on Saturday night, I’m going to show it. I like to have fun and keep it simple and smile for the camera.”

“I have a lot to learn from my last fight, but my team has made the proper adjustments and on Saturday night I’ll show that I can adjust to a lot of stuff. The main event is a great dance. You have two great boxers going toe to toe and I just wish that the best man wins.”

Click here to read Abe G story.

Nico Ali Walsh

“All of the greats say that the first fight is always the hardest. The first is out of the way, so it’s all fun from here on out. I love boxing, it’s my passion, and I’m looking forward to continuing my grandfather’s legacy and creating my own. After the first fight, you get used to it. I have the greatest people in my corner. I have SugarHill Steward and BB Hudson, so I’m very happy with the corner that I have, and if I could build anything off of my pro debut, it would be more off a jab and a cleaner right hand.”

Evan Holyfield

Nice hemp shirt, Holy. (Christina Merrion pic)

“It means absolutely everything to fight in my hometown. This is my second time fighting in Atlanta. It’s boxing, hit and don’t get hit, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win whether I fight or box. My dad always tells me to train at my hardest. I’ve been real focused this training camp, and I’m just ready to go to work. It’s definitely like a kid in a candy store just being around all of this talent. It’s an honor. We got Xander Zayas, Shakur Stevenson, Jamel Herring, and Nico Ali. It’s nothing but greatness.”

SATURDAY, October 23, 2021

ESPN & ESPN Deportes (Simulcast on ESPN+), 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT

Jamel Herring vs. Shakur Stevenson, 12 rounds, Herring's WBO Junior Lightweight World Title

Xander Zayas vs. Dan Karpency, 6 rounds, junior middleweight

Nico Ali Walsh vs. James Westley II, 4 rounds, middleweight

ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT

Evan Holyfield vs. Charles Stanford, 6 rounds, junior middleweight

Troy Isley vs. Nicholi Navarro, 4 rounds, middleweight

Roddricus Livsey vs. Eric Palmer, 6 rounds, junior welterweight

Haven Brady Jr. vs. Roberto Negrete, 4 rounds, featherweight

Antoine Cobb vs. Jerrion Campbell, 4 rounds, junior welterweight

Harley Mederos vs. Deljerro Revello, 4 rounds, junior lightweight

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.