by David P. Greisman
Jamel Herring was presented as the protagonist of a heroic narrative. He was a former Marine, after all, the captain of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in 2012, and the headlining fighter on an Independence Day Weekend broadcast of “Premier Boxing Champions” on ESPN.
But in reality he was a lightweight prospect who needed to step up. And he took too big a step up against too tough an opponent.
Herring’s opponent was Denis Shafikov, who had lost in two world title fights but still had too much for Herring to handle. Shafikov dropped Herring in the second and then continued to grind away, ultimately forcing Herring’s corner to stop the bout in the 10th and final round.
Shafikov, the shorter fighter by far, came forward from the outset. Herring used jabs and movement to stay away, but he wasn’t doing enough to keep him away. Shafikov began to shorten the distance in the second round, landing blows in close or as Herring pulled away.
Just before the bell, Herring sent out a southpaw jab and began to circle to his right. Shafikov, also a southpaw, feinted with a left hand counter over Herring’s jab. That froze Herring from his movement for a moment and kept him standing still enough for a good right hook from Shafikov. Herring fell back into the ropes for what was rightly ruled a knockdown.
“You’re making him miss. You’re not making him pay,” said Herring’s trainer, Mike Stafford, most famous for his work with Adrien Broner, giving advice to his boxer after that second round ended.
It hadn’t been working for Herring, trying to stay away from Shafikov. It didn’t work well enough standing in close either. Shafikov landed more often, landed the harder shots and withstood what Herring hit him with.
“He kept on pressing,” Herring said afterward. “I wanted to basically fight fire with fire and try to back him up. But he kept coming.”
The in-close action led to numerous clashes of heads. That ultimately led to Herring being cut over his right eye in the seventh round. It wasn’t from a punch. It didn’t matter. It was one more thing Herring had to deal with in a fight where he was already dealing with enough.
The bout seemed on track to a decision win for Shafikov, who was piling up the points on the scorecards. But then he hurt Herring in the ninth and continued to pour on the punishment. Herring at times nodded or waved Shafikov in. He wasn’t turning the fight around, however.
“I’m gonna stop this,” Stafford told Herring after the round ended. “If you don’t show me nothing, I’m gonna stop this. I don’t want to get you hurt.”
Herring pleaded to go back out. His team kept close watch, and when Shafikov landed a flush left hand early in the 10th, one of Herring’s trainers stepped on the apron with a white towel in hand.
Herring, a 30-year-old originally from Long Island, New York, is now 15-1 with 8 KOs. This will be a tough loss. Shafikov is good, but the defeat also showed that Herring isn’t yet anywhere close to as good as he’ll need to be to contend in the lightweight division.
Shafikov, 31, of Miass, Russia, is now 37-2-1 with 20 KOs. He dropped a unanimous decision in a title challenge against Miguel Vazquez in 2014 and was coming off a decision loss to Rances Barthelemy from last December.
“The only thing I could think about was fighting for a title again,” Shafikov said afterward. “That was my main motivator.”
In the televised co-feature of “PBC on ESPN,” junior middleweight prospect Patryk Szymanski remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Wilky Campfort.
Szymanski looked to have it easy in the opening rounds, boxing well while Campfort had trouble closing the distance on his taller opponent. But Campfort continued to come forward and began to land a little better.
That aggression kept Campfort in range, and Szymanski capitalized by hurting him 45 seconds into the fourth round, then following up with more shots upstairs. Campfort weathered it, stabilized and was able to land a right hand of his own as the round came to a close.
Campfort had his best round in the fifth, landing shots that had Szymanski in retreat for a bit. Szymanski went to his corner with a cut over his left eye, a wound that came from a clash of heads. Szymanski was often staying in range now, and Campfort sought to take advantage of this. In the sixth, Szymanski landed shots and tried to circle away, but he remained too close and got caught with a left hook.
Campfort couldn’t keep it up, though, and Szymanski made the adjustment he needed, sticking and moving, picking his exchanges in the eighth and the ninth, punctuating the penultimate round with a left hand that sent Campfort’s mouthpiece flying out.
Szymanski had Campfort hurt in the 10th and tried to follow up to the body, but he went low while Campfort tied up. The referee broke the fighters apart, and Szymanski landed a left hook after the break. Campfort got time to recover. Szymanski tried to hurt him again, veering low once more and taking another warning from the referee. With the round clearly won, and the fight likely won as well, Szymanski coasted for the remaining moments.
The final scorecards were comfortable. Two judges had it 99-91, while the third had it 98-92.
Szymanski, a 23-year-old from Poland, is now 16-0 with 9 KOs and has picked up experience in his past two fights against a certain level of opponent; he’d outpointed Richard Gutierrez, long past his best days, in a bout last October.
Campfort is quickly learning that he’s not at the level that he thought. He got a world title challenge last November against Jermall Charlo and was promptly taken out in four rounds. He provided a test for Szymanski but wound up suffering his second straight defeat. The 31-year-old, who fights out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is now 21-3 with 12 KOs.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]