This Saturday night, live on ESPN, Top Rank travels to Atlanta, GA, where they will host a very intriguing Super Featherweight title fight. WBO Champ Jamel Herring (23-2) faces the young undefeated Shakur Stevenson (16-0) in a fight that has been discussed for some time and is now finally upon us.
It’s no secret that the odds are stacked up against the 35-year-old Herring. Most will say that the younger, faster fighter beats the older, savvy veteran on most days. But somehow, that hasn’t applied to Herring as often as doubters had predicted; he continues to defeat the odds that are usually stacked up against him.
In his last fight, Herring faced Carl Frampton (28-2) in Dubai. Plenty said that he would lose as there were talks of Frampton meeting Shakur after the Herring fight. Someone didn’t pass the memo to Jamel because he ruined those plans by stopping Frampton and earning the type of victory that would generate the buzz needed for the fight against Shakur Stevenson.
I asked Jamel about the Frampton fight and some of the things he learned in and out of the ring. “I learned that I determine my own path,” he said. “I have the last say. It’s pretty much how I have treated all my fights. As a Marine, we look for those challenges and don’t run away from them. With a great team behind me, I was able to come out with the victory.”
Fast forward to about a month ago where the two fighters met for the press conference where Top Rank would officially announce the fight. The thing that immediately stuck out to me was the different versions of pop culture that they represent.
Herring with a Wu-Tang Clan tee shirt represents the 90’s while Shakur had the Louis Vuitton belt, slim jeans, and a diamond necklace which falls in line with today’s younger demographic. Seeing that gives you the old lion vs. young lion picture, and yes, there is an 11-year age gap between the two.
During the stare-down, Shakur had some things to say while Jamel maintained his bearing. “I was cool and just being me. My team, which includes Brian “Bomac” McIntyre, has never steered me wrong, so I am coming into this fight with a lot of confidence. I didn’t take what Shakur was saying seriously. Of course, I’m taking the fight seriously, but I just tuned out the things he was saying. I didn’t care for anything he had to say. I do my talking in the ring,” said the Marine veteran Herring.
After speaking about the press conference, we quickly transitioned to training camp, which took place in Colorado Springs, CO. I asked Jamel whether this camp was any different from the others. “This camp compared to my last camps, we did not have any postponements. I don’t have any nagging injuries, and the team is really focused because we know how big this fight is. It’s been a real feel-good vibe, and we haven’t been stressing over anything. I feel strong and just ready to go to Atlanta.”
The stakes are high for this fight, and when that happens, you bring in next-level fighters to get you ready. Insert former World Champion Amir Khan, who still possesses some high-level hand speed even at the age of 34. Speed is something that Jamel will be facing in the younger Shakur so bringing in Khan made sense. “Me and Amir sparred, and we had him switch to southpaw,” Herring shared. “We wanted to use him for the hand speed, and he gave me some good work. Outside of the ring, we picked each other’s brains. What people don’t know is that I’ve known Amir for about ten years. During the Olympics, he let me use his gym, which is where we met. “
Jamel Herring knows what’s at stake, and as a Marine Veteran, he always represents the Corps and carries the flag. The irony behind some of Herrings’ fights is the significance of the day he fights on, as they tend to fall on personally meaningful days. During the Masayuki Ito fight, on May 25, 2019, it was Memorial Day weekend and what would have been his daughter’s tenth birthday. Herring pulled off an emotional decision victory where he captured the WBO Super Featherweight title.
Then when he faced Lamont Roach Jr. in Fresno, CA, on Nov. 9, 2019, it was Veteran’s Day weekend and the Marine Corps Birthday. This fight with Shakur lands on the thirty-eighth anniversary of the Beirut bombing, which killed 220 Marines.
Jamel understands that fighting on this day and being a Marine Veteran is a form of honoring those that have fallen. When I asked Jamel about it, he said, “Everything happens for a reason in my career, and I don’t believe in coincidences. I have something to fight for on that day as I always represent the Marine Corps in the utmost way.”
Shifting the focus back on the fight, Herring mentioned that this would be a “tough, grueling fight.” He continued, “I’m going to have to tap into that Marine Corps mentality and bring out that dog from start to finish. I’m excited and look forward to the fight. I’m not taking it lightly, but I’m not worried either.”
As we wrap up the call, Herring had this to say to those that have and continue to support him. “I appreciate everyone who stood by me through my ups and downs. I’m the same guy from ten years ago before the belt. I”m just grateful and honored to be fighting at this high level. I am going to go and represent the Marine Corps and everyone who has been with me since day one.”
My Three Cents:
Jamel Herring once again becomes the underdog, and he is good with that as he enjoys proving people wrong. If Jamel Herring wants to win this fight, he will have to take a line from the Sun Tzu book, “The Art of War”: “Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself so as to find out his vulnerable spots.”
Will Jamel Herring overcome the odds once again and set up a fight for the RING magazine title? Are we going to see the best version of Shakur Stevenson and witness the birth of a full-on future star? Tune into ESPN this Saturday at 10:30 PM EST/7:30 PM PST to watch this Super Featherweight clash.