Jamel Herring, a US Marine, a US Olympian at London 2012 and a former one-time WBO super featherweight champion of the world, is looking to have a solid 2024.
The man who bleeds the red, white and blue, is the epitome of a patriot. Jamel retired in 2022 after back-to-back losses to current WBC lightweight world champion Shakur Stevenson (21 W – 0 L) in October 2021 and super lightweight contender Jamaine Ortiz (17 W – 1 L – 1 D) in May 2022.
Jamel’s short retirement was short lived as he made a return to the ring in November 2023, roughly 18 months after calling it quits. He returned to the ring with a first round knockout win.
I spoke with Jamel about his journey into the US Marines, his professional boxing career and his intentions to continue in the sport at the age of 38 and the motivation within him to reach the highest of highs and become a world champion once more.
SA: Jamel, you retired in May 2022, but it seems you just couldn’t keep away from the sport. What lead to the decision to step back into the ring at the age of 38?
JH: It was just down to my love for the sport you know. I’ve missed it very much and I got bored being at home.
My good friend Joe Cordina, current IBF super featherweight champion, also motivated me to come back. There are also a number of other people out here in Cincinnati, Ohio who motivated me to make my comeback.
SA: You have had a very successful professional boxing career Jamel, you fought some top-level fighters and captured a world title with several defences on the back of that. I would be keen to know what lead you to join the US Marines when you were younger prior to getting into boxing.
JH: For me personally, I was never really a street kid. I had a close friend of mine who had already joined, and he was a year older than me, his name was Stefan Brown and he had suggested to me to sign up.
Seeing that it looked like he was having success in the US Marines encouraged me to give it a go to, so I went ahead and joined. I knew it could only be a positive as it meant it would keep me away from being drawn into doing the wrong things in life.
SA: What did you learn about yourself during that whole process and how did you transition any qualities you had within you already into both the Marines and eventually over into your professional boxing career?
JH: I had to mature extremely quickly. I was 17 and I turned 18 during bootcamp so I had no choice but to mature quickly. It was most definitely the core values and the discipline factor, staying regimented and disciplined at all times in the US Marines.
Those things helped me to become a better fighter inside and outside of the ring – it’s all down to staying disciplined.
Even now at the age of 38 I don’t put on a crazy amount of weight, I always ensure I’m taking care of my body and to be honest I’m always trying to learn more about the sport of boxing, there’s always more to learn in life.
It’s a way of life and you see me now the way I am on Twitter, how I speak with people and share opinions on the sport.
Even in this conversation with you, I love to listen to peoples’ experiences in boxing and I love that I’m able to keep learning about the sport through other people’s experiences as well.
SA: You’re very active on twitter and you engage openly with fans about all sorts of topics within the sport of boxing, so the love for the sport is very much evident.
You recently did some commentating for the Naoya Inoue vs Marlon Tapales undisputed super bantamweight world championship fight, how was that experience for you?
JH: Absolutely man, I love discussing with fans and hearing people’s opinions on the sport.
Boxing isn’t just a business or a sport for me – it’s a lifestyle. I stay open minded, and it allows me to grow.
The Inoue fight was a great way for me to have some involvement in the sport without actually having to put the gloves on and step into the ring.
I love commentating and breaking things down that I see taking place in the ring. It’s what I love, I still have so much passion for the sport of boxing in every way.
SA: You’ve mentioned that boxing is a way of life for you a few times now so that just goes to show how much fire you still have inside of you and the passion really comes through when speaking to you about the sport.
Where did the love affair with boxing start for you and what are your earliest memories of the sport?
JH: My earliest memories of the sport are of my parents watching people like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno, so their era for sure.
Even then, I’d say I remember more of the following era in terms of fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Shane Mosley and Erik Morales, even Pacquiao and Mayweather too.
Of course, as things progressed, and we got into the digital era it allowed me to be able to go back and research and watch older fights in the 80’s and even further back and so I became a student of the game.
Boxing was just huge in my household and my favourite fighter back then that really got me into boxing was Shane Mosley after he beat Oscar De La Hoya.
I got to see all these guys on HBO, Showtime and seeing their faces on magazines and even video games, the sport was always just in my face.
SA: There are a few names you’ve mentioned there that have gone on to become all-time greats and influence entire generations of fighters that have come and gone in the sport. Who would you say is your biggest inspiration or influence in terms of how you approach things in the sport?
JH: I would have to say Bernard Hopkins, look how long it took him to get a big break.
I believe he was in his mid to late 30’s when he got his first truly big fight against Felix Trinidad and even then, they were counting him out.
Bernard made sure he respected his craft and looked after his body, he was always learning and pushing himself to be better. He managed to prolong his career at the highest level of the sport into his 50’s. The performance he put on against Trinidad will always stick with me.
Anybody who was come before me and had great success – I’m trying to learn from and pick little things up that I can incorporate into my lifestyle and in ring game for sure. Respect the greats who came before us and build off their successes.
SA: What are your thoughts on the current state of boxing as a sport today? We’ve discussed a lot of generational talents during our conversation who have left a massive impact on the sport.
I would like to know how you view the sport in today’s world and the things that you are enjoying about it in particular.
JH: I think in today’s day and age in boxing we’re seeing a lot of trailblazers in particular, in womens boxing.
We’ve had the Laila Alis and Mia St. Johns open the door for women of previous generations, but we’ve not seen anything like what we’re seeing in today’s sport. Taylor, Serrano, Shields, Mayer, Baumgardner and even Caroline Dubois who is making a real name for herself at the moment.
It’s so great to see and shows the progress the sport has made in the way these women are really pushing boxing forward – they’re all willing to fight one another so for sure they will be remembered years from now when looking at the growth of women’s boxing at the elite level.
SA: On the topic of your own career Jamel, you’re now 38 years of age coming off a mini retirement if you will.
You’ve accomplished what a very small percentage of professional boxers accomplish – win a world title as well as defend it successfully. What do you remember about winning your world title and who would you say was your best win as a world champ and why?
JH: I can’t explain in words how it felt having my hand raised and hearing I was now officially in the history books as a world champion.
I felt validated and felt like all of my sacrifices and hard work throughout my career had been worth it.
But I knew that as a champion the work only gets harder as you’ve got a target on your back now.
I fought Lamont Roach in my first defense, who is good fighter in his own right but the fighter I have to tip my hat to is Carl Frampton.
Carl was the 2016 Ring Magazine fighter of the year as well as a former unified WBA and IBF super bantamweight and WBA featherweight champion. He was aiming to win a world title in his third weight class, and I managed to shut him down and stop him.
I’m grateful I was able to get that fight on with Carl out in Dubai as it got delayed a few times due to the coronavirus pandemic but ultimately, I would say he was my most accomplished opponent at that point and is definitely my best win.
SA: For all that you’ve accomplished in the sport Jamel, you said you missed the sport too much and still have the desire to fight on. You’re at a stage where father time will start to catch up to you realistically. What is the aim of this comeback in realistic terms? Who are you targeting?
JH: The aim of this comeback is to fight three times this year. No tune ups or easy fights, I want competitive bouts that will add to my resume and ideally against the top guys in and around my weight class.
Of course, I was coming off two losses, so we had to see where I was in November but now that I’m back to winning ways I want to push myself.
I want Joe Cordina but he’s going in another direction the same way I kept asking for Miguel Berchelt when he was WBC champion, and he went on to fight Oscar Valdez.
I’ve never shied away from any challenge and even now the ambition is there. I’ve told my promoter Lou Dibella to get me the best fights available.
I even offered to fight Leigh Wood or Josh Warrington, but it looks like they’re going to have a rematch over there.
I’m even offering to fight Jordan Gill who beat my friend Mick Conlan recently on the undercard as I haven’t fought in the UK before.
I really want to tick that experience off my bucket list to say I did it and come experience a real UK fight night in a stadium, I envy Errol Spence for getting to fight Kell Brook in a stadium out there, I want to live that experience.
SA: Do you have any concerns that you may be putting yourself at risk fighting on too long as we see too often in the sport there are rarely happy endings with fighters bowing out on their own terms.
JH: This sport is danger and high risk; you have to be fully committed and like I’ve said a lot today it’s a lifestyle.
It’s a way of life and I’ve lived it for many years, disciplined and regimented on every detail. I may be getting to what is considered an older age, but I know my body can still deliver results for me and I have what it takes to keep myself safe in there.
The moment I feel like I can’t do this anymore or have no desire, I will definitely walk away from the sport. I have a beautiful family to live for, so I know that’s my main priority.
SA: Jamel just to wrap things up, when you decide it is actually time to properly step away and retire from in ring competition, what would you like people to remember you for?
JH: That Jamel Herring was willing to fight anyone out there. He was willing to risk it against any fighter in the ring. No easy route, no cherry picking but fighting the fights that matter.
Tell Eddie Hearn to call me! Get me out in the UK, I want that stadium experience.
I’ll give it my all every time as everyone already knows. I want to be remembered as a true champion.