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Jamel Herring: I have to handle business against Jonathan Oquendo

Photo by Dylan Buell/ Getty Images
Fighters Network

Jamel Herring loves boxing despite the fact that the sport hasn’t always loved him back.

Herring, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring at junior lightweight, overcame key losses early in his career to bounce back and become a world titleholder. But despite achieving that goal, the Ohio-based New Yorker believes there is still more to accomplish.

On Tuesday, Herring (21-2, 10 knockouts) will defend his WBO 130-pound title against Jonathan Oquendo at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The 12-round bout will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).

This will be the 34-year-old Herring’s second title defense. In his last bout on November 9, he defeated the previously unbeaten Lamont Roach by unanimous decision in Fresno, California.

Oquendo was dominant in his last bout, on November 14, when he defeated Charles Huerta over 10 rounds. In his previous fight, on May 4 of last year, the 36-year-old lost a close unanimous decision to Roach in a fight that many at ringside thought he did enough to win.

Herring, 34, is ready for whatever style the Puerto Rican challenger brings.

“He’s a durable guy,” Herring told The Ring. “He’s had tough and close fights. He’s determined. He doesn’t take a step backwards. You never know, he has hot and cold moments. He has the tendency to be inconsistent in fights. When Lamont created space, he didn’t have a real answer. Lamont landed three, four-punch combos. I respect anyone who gets in the ring, but I have to handle business against Oquendo.”

Herring opponent Jonathan Oquendo Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Herring has won his last five bouts, all under the Top Rank banner, since losing by decision to Ladarius Miller in August 2017. A year earlier, he suffered his first defeat as a pro when he was knocked out by former world title challenger Denis Shafikov of Russia.

It was the two defeats in three fights that made Herring realize a change was required. He separated from adviser Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions in January of 2018 and hired trainer Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre, who also trains Terence Crawford and Maurice Hooker.

These changes have made Herring a more focused fighter.

“There’s a quicker path to stardom now than just training for the Olympics and turning pro in the early 2000s, 1990s and 1980s,” said Herring, who is also managed by McIntyre. “I was buried on undercards, that is what keeps me grounded. I was never handed anything, I worked hard for it. I’m honored to headline and be the main event of a fight card.”

“I do still wake up in shock and awe of what I went through. I wouldn’t change anything. When I think about the Shafikov fight, I took that defeat and walked away. I realized after the Shafikov fight that there’s levels. I have to keep grinding. I don’t care about undefeated records. It would be great on paper, but I’m at the point where I push forward. I want to fight those guys that are bigger than me or more of an interest.”

That includes a fight with Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton. Herring would love to unify all the belts at 130 pounds, but he believes the Frampton clash is more realistic for later this year.

“I know (Miguel) Berchelt will defend his WBC title against Oscar Valdez, and Joseph ‘JoJo’ Diaz either has to defend against his (IBF) mandatory Shavkat Rakhimov or rematch Tevin Farmer. We already know about (WBA titleholder) Leo Santa Cruz and PBC (promoter/ network allegiance would make such a fight near-impossible to make). I have a 90 percent chance of fighting Carl. Champions have to take care of their mandatories. I hope (Frampton) has the same motivation and ambition to fight me.”

A fight against Frampton would likely take place in November or December. Herring has stated he has no problems going overseas and facing Frampton in his hometown of Belfast.

Having completed two tours of duty to Iraq while serving in the U.S. Marines about 14 years ago, Herring believes his mental fortitude is what got him through a recent bout with COVID-19. He tested positive about three weeks ago and subsequently postponed the original fight date of July 2.

Herring thought his symptoms were due to intense training sessions and sparring with Crawford.

“I felt more tired and I suffered aches to my body,” he recalled. “I thought that was from the work we were doing in the gym. When you train alongside Terence Crawford, you race each other, you spar, you do everything. After a few days I got a fever, so that’s when I stopped and got tested and it came back positive. I was out of the gym for three or four days. I was mostly running on my own so I didn’t spread it.

“Toughness comes from overseas tours of duty. Fights can’t compare to what I’ve seen. It trickles down to my family life and what I’m fighting for. I’m always thinking of who I’m fighting for when I wake up in the morning. I love the sport. I’m a fan and student of the sport. I’m honored to be a part of something. I keep going forward and overcoming obstacles. I’m a good place right now.”


Francisco A. Salazar can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing