By Jake Donovan
KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Among the many causes and tributes Jamel Herring carried into the ring ahead of his first career title fight was joining a short list of fighters from Long Island to put a major belt around his waist.
His thorough boxing lesson of exiting 130-pound titlist Masayuki Ito did the trick, scoring a 12-round decision in their ESPN-televised main event at Osceola Heritage Park. With the win, Herring joins James ‘Buddy’ McGirt and Chris Algieri as the only boxers born and raised in the Long Island section (famously dubbed "Strong Island" by legendary Public Enemy lead emcee Chuck D.) of New York to win a major title in the pro ranks.
“I was hoping and praying he would pull it off,” McGirt told BoxingScene.com, as Long Island’s first-ever champion was on hand as head trainer for Adam Lopez, whom scored an upset and off-the-canvas 7th round stoppage win Jean Carlos Rivera on the undercard. “He did it and looked damn good doing it.”
McGirt—a two-division world champ from the Brentwood section of Long Island will gain enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June—won his first title the hard way. His 140-pound win over then-unbeaten Frankie Warren in Feb. 1988 avenged his first career defeat 19 months prior, then going on to win the welterweight crown with a thorough 12-round win over Simon Brown in perhaps the finest performance of his 15-year career.
Neither of the two reigns went particularly deep, however. Both ended with losses to 1984 Olympic Gold medalists, losing his 140-pound crown to then unbeaten Meldrick Taylor in 1988 and suffering the first of two defeats to all-time great Pernell Whitaker in March 1993, his lone ever defeat in 31 career appearances in his New York home state.
Nor did that of Algieri’s title reign. The fighting pride of Huntington—with all three Long Islanders hailing specifically from Suffolk County (as does this writer)—scored a major upset in a June 2014 decision win over divisional boogeyman Ruslan Provodnikov to win a 140-pound belt in Brooklyn, New York.
Algieri never posted a successful defense, in fact only recently returning to the weight division. He’d ultimately vacate the title in exchange for a welterweight run, which saw lucrative paydays with Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Errol Spence all translate into the lone three losses of his career.
Time will tell how long Herring will reign alongside the best in the 130-pound division. Whatever transpires, the 33-year old southpaw from Coram—a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran and 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain—at least lived up to promises he made personally and to those he proudly represents.
“I told Buddy that I was coming here to represent and bring that belt back home to Long Island,” Herring (20-2, 10KOs) told BoxingScene.com after turning in his best performance to date. “We did just that. I don’t even know what to think or feel. The feeling is surreal.
“Never mind waiting for the title fight to become official, the journey getting here definitely wasn’t easy. I never had anything handed to me. I had to claw my way up, making changes after some early career losses. In the end, it was all worth it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox