Jamel Herring says he’s ready to ruin Shakur Stevenson’s party
Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring arrived in Atlanta on Monday with members of his team. Earlier today, his wife Jennifer joined him in the ATL. On Saturday night he faces what many expect will be the toughest challenge of his career, when he defends his junior lightweight title against Shakur Stevenson. The two southpaws will headline a Top Rank on ESPN show from the State Farm Arena.
“I’m excited for this fight,” Herring told The Ring. “I think it comes down to who is the busier man. We know that if you let Shakur sit back and do what he wants, he’ll just pick you apart. I feel like I have to be a dog in this fight.”
“I have no issue jumping into the fire. That’s what gets your opponent to open up, when you make them feel uncomfortable.”
Herring (23-2, 11 knockouts) spent several weeks of camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado. With an altitude of over 6,000 feet, he feels the location was ideal for him to perfect his conditioning. He plans to press the action against Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) with a high offensive output.
For the last year or so, it seemed as if Herring could not catch a break. His fight with Jonathan Oquendo was pushed back multiple times due to positive COVID tests. The Carl Frampton bout was delayed when Frampton injured his hand. But training camp for Stevenson has gone as smooth as ever. So much so that it almost feels unreal to Herring.
“It’s almost like, every week that passes, I’m waiting to get a call, to hear that something happened,” he joked. “I haven’t had any postponements of delays this time around. I’m happy with the way things have been going.”
“I’ve been working with my nutritionist at ‘Perfecting Athletes’ for the last five weeks. Everybody mentions how big I am for the weight class, so I always check in with them to make sure I’m doing everything right. They’re here with me now in Atlanta.”
Despite the fact that Saturday’s bout will be the fourth world title defense for Herring, and that he brings more professional fighting experience to the ring than his much younger opponent, oddsmakers have placed Stevenson as the significant betting favorite. But that doesn’t bother the former Marine at all. In fact, he prefers it.
“Most of my big fights, I have been the underdog,” he said. “The Frampton fight, I was supposed to get knocked out. We saw how that turned out. The Masayuki Ito fight, they thought he was on his way to getting a unification with Miguel Berchelt. We saw how that turned out.”
“People told me how crazy the odds opened at for Stevenson, but I did hear that they’ve been tightening up. I get a kick out of how the odds really start to change on the day of the weigh-in. I’m looking forward to winning people some money.”
“I like ruining the party. I like being the underdog.”
As mentioned above, both Herring and Stevenson are southpaws. The only losses that Herring has suffered as a pro have come to lefties; Denis Shafikov in 2016 and Ladarius Miller in 2017. Both fights were in the 135-pound lightweight division.
“Those losses took place when I was with my previous trainer, Mike Stafford,” Herring told The Ring. “The Shafikov fight, I thought I was too big for my britches. I was 15-0 at the time. I was undefeated, so I felt like “I got this”. But it wasn’t so much his style, it was his experience that beat me in that fight. He was one of the hardest punchers I’ve fought. I haven’t been hit as hard since.”
“And for the Miller fight, I didn’t get the proper attention. Stafford was busy training Adrien Broner for his bout with Mikey Garcia. But I don’t make any excuses, you’re supposed to learn and grow from your mistakes.”
In 2018, Herring not only began working with Brian “BoMac” McIntyre, he signed with Top Rank and moved down to the junior lightweight division.
“When I went to train with Brian McIntyre and the gang, obviously they have one of the best southpaws in the game, Terence Crawford,” he said. “I started learning and picking up things from ‘Bud’ right away. Now I actually have an easier time dealing with southpaws.”
Herring is 7-0 since he began training with Crawford, McIntyre and the crew. He says that a big part of that success is due to his preparation in the ring and his lifestyle out of it. He never lets himself blow up in weight in between fights, making it a point to stay under 150 pounds when he’s out of camp.
“I don’t have to kill myself in camp to make weight,” he said. “At the press conference, Shakur looked kind of heavy. I pick up on stuff like that. Maybe he’s the one who needed to have “Fat Camp” for this fight.”
Like one might expect from a Marine, Herring kept it short but simple when asked for a fight prediction.
“The Marine comes out on top.”
Then he added, “My main goal has always been The Ring championship. I have to take care of Stevenson to get to that goal. I’m grateful that Ring Magazine has me ranked number one in the division, but I won’t feel right until I’m the lineal champion.”
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Michael Montero can be found on social media via @MonteroOnBoxing. His show “The Neutral Corner” can be seen every Monday on TheRingDigital YouTube channel, and heard on audio podcast platforms around the world.