Jamel Herring, healthy and recharged, is ready for Jonathan Oquendo, targeting Carl Frampton
To the joking suggestion that perhaps he ought to spend fight week ensconced in bubble wrap to ensure he makes it to the ring, Jamel Herring let out a loud laugh.
After all, Herring is on his third attempt to defend his junior lightweight world title against Jonathan Oquendo after the fight was twice postponed in July because Herring tested positive for COVID-19.
First, they were due to meet July 2, but Herring was forced to postpone the bout because he was ill with the coronavirus. It was rescheduled for July 14 and after testing negative before leaving his training camp in Omaha, Nebraska, he tested positive again after arriving in Las Vegas and the bout was once again put on hold.
Now, assuming there is not another surprise positive test, Herring will make the second defense of his WBO 130-pound belt against Oquendo in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday night inside “the bubble” of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, knowing a win will propel him into a major fight against former two-division world titlist Carl Frampton later in the year.
“I’m feeling 20 times better than I did. My lungs feel like they are fully functional again and I’m just ready to go and I’m anxious,” Herring told The Ring. “I feel great.”
He did not feel so great in late June, when he first began to notice the effects of the illness. He was fatigued and had body aches, but he did not think at first that he had the coronavirus.
“I felt like it had been a hard training camp, like my normal thing, but it wasn’t until I got a fever and the chills where I went to go get tested,” Herring said.
Sure enough, he tested positive for the virus and was running a fever of 101.5 degrees. Herring said he continued to work out as best as he could even though he was having some trouble breathing.
“By the time Top Rank rescheduled it for July 14 I was already getting back in the groove during my time in quarantine,” Herring said. “I still went out for morning runs to keep my weight down and keep my body active. I wasn’t down for the count from the virus. I had the minor symptoms. I could still taste and smell.”
He showed up in Las Vegas for the rescheduled bout having tested negative before he made the trip. But the day before the fight he tested positive and the fight was again scrapped.
“It was definitely a shock,” Herring said. “It was a roller coaster. I had a lot of mixed feelings in my head. Top Rank kept me calm. They said, ‘Look, we’re gonna reschedule the fight.’ So, I was calm and cool about things. They pushed it back this far to make sure it was completely out of my system and here we are now.
“When I went back home, I took about two weeks off, let my body recuperate, spent time with my family, recharged my batteries. When I went back into camp it wasn’t like I had to start from ground zero. We kept it at a good pace so I wouldn’t over train. This gave my body time to completely get over the virus. I have to say I feel so much better than before. I have no doubt in my mind I’m a totally fresher fighter.”
Herring said he views the second postponement as something of a silver lining because he admitted that he was not at full health after his bout with the virus.
“A blessing in disguise. It was for the best,” he said. “I believe I will go into this fight a lot more sure of myself and without doubts. I feel like the old me again, like I never had the virus.”
Herring (21-2, 10 KOs), 34, a Coram, New York, native, said he is anxious for the Frampton showdown but trying to concentrate on Oquendo (31-6, 19 KOs), 37, of Puerto Rico, who has lost whenever he has stepped up against top opposition: Abner Mares, Lamont Roach, Jesus Cuellar, Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Juan Manuel Lopez.
“I look at this fight like people are going to be more looking at how I look coming off this virus,” said Herring, a Marine Corp. veteran, who served in Iraq, and the captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team. “Of course, I’m not taking him for granted though or overlooking anyone because to get to the bigger fights I have to get past him. For me, this fight is like to measure how I do with a guy like this because it’s no secret that Carl Frampton is definitely the guy that’s next.
“There’s no other fight out there for me but Carl Frampton right now, especially in 2020. My goal is to see how I look and feel coming off the long layoff because I haven’t fought since last November and go from there.”
Frampton (28-2, 16 KOs), 33, of Northern Ireland, who has won world titles at junior featherweight and featherweight, did his part to punch his way into the title fight with Herring on August 15 in London. Frampton came off a 10-month layoff and knocked out late replacement Darren Traynor in the seventh round of a lightweight fight, the weight being an accommodation to Traynor taking the fight on short notice. Herring was tuned in.
“You know I watched him, for sure,” Herring said. “It was expected for him to get the victory, but it all came down to how he looked doing it. He didn’t look like the old Frampton I became a fan of, the guy who fought Leo Santa Cruz and Scott Quigg. I love and respect Carl Frampton as a fighter. Maybe it was because it was a last-minute replacement or the fight didn’t motivate him, but you could tell he looked a step slower and he was getting hit with a good jab. I felt like he shouldn’t have taken that much damage. But in the end, he got the knockout win.
“Like he said himself, he knows he has to come a lot better when we eventually meet. But I can’t sit there and critique and criticize him when I have a job to do. My main goal is go out there – and it’s a competitive thing – and look better against my opponent than he looked against his.”