By Jake Donovan
With long-reigning 130-pound titlist Miguel Berchelt seated ringside, Jamel Herring figured his first following his title winning performance over Masayuki Ito would be a unification match versus the Mexican slugger.
Instead, it will be a World Boxing Organization (WBO)-mandated title defense versus unbeaten contender Lamont Roach Jr.—and it will just have to do for now.
“I really wanted a unification but that doesn’t look like it’s happening,” Herring (20-2, 10KOs) told BoxingScene.com. “My team is exploring all options.”
Herring became just the third-ever Long Island (New York)-bred boxer to win a major title following his win over Ito, which came in front of a sold-out crowd on Memorial Day weekend in Kissimmee, Fla. The day of remembrance for fallen servicemembers served as a fitting backdrop for Herring’s first title win, which came in the presence of several of his fellow U.S. Marines in the house, the 33-year old himself having served two tours in Iraq.
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum hopes to keep the same formula in place for his first title defense, planning to stage the event on November 9, the weekend preceding Veterans Day. That will depend on what deal can be worked out with Roach (19-0-1, 7KOs), as the WBO has given the two sides until July 21 to come to terms before ordering a purse bid hearing.
Absent another titlist coming to the forefront to face Herring, the top-rated challenger isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m f****** excited,” exclaimed Roach upon hearing the news of such a fight being ordered. “It’s strap season.”
Roach enters the fight coming off of a 10-round decision win over Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo this past May in Las Vegas—three weeks before Herring’s title-winning effort. The 23-year old from the greater Washington D.C. area is generally regarded as a bit too green for a title fight, but nevertheless remains the best option for a resurgent super featherweight eager to remain active.
Herring was hopeful that Berchelt’s presence at ringside for his title win was an indication of interest in their squaring off next. However, the 27-year old knockout artist from Mexico—who also fought in May, scoring a repeat knockout of Francisco Vargas, whom he dethroned more than two years prior—was apparently more interested in a straightforward slugger like Ito than a skilled southpaw who won’t just stand in place.
As both Herring and Berchelt fight under the Top Rank/ESPN banner, it seemed the best option for a unification bout than chasing the likes of Gervonta Davis (Showtime) or Tevin Farmer (DAZN). The one titlist willing to fight anyone—Andrew Cancio, who scored a second straight knockout over Alberto Machado last weekend—isn’t an option, as external sanctioning bodies won’t permit their title claimants to face a secondary titlist.
Cancio holds the WBA “Regular” title, leaving him with just one path in terms of facing a fellow beltholder—a title consolidation clash with Davis who is the sanctioning body’s recognized “Super” champ.
Given that, Herring will likely have to turn to 2020 in efforts to collect more titles. Until then—he has to fight someone.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox