Reigning 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring was once again forced to withdraw from a voluntary title defense versus Puerto Rico's Jonathan Oquendo, which was due to take place July 14 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Herring tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in two weeks, this time with the results learned on the morning of the weigh-in.
In its place, Mikaela Mayer (12-0, 5KOs) will now headline Tuesday's edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. The 2016 U.S. Olympian and current junior lightweight contender will face Nigeria's Helen Joseph in a scheduled 10-round bout that itself was relocated due to COVID-related reasons.
Herring (21-2, 10KOs) and Oquendo (31-6, 19KOs) were initially due to collide on July 2 in Vegas, only for the bout to be postponed after Herring tested positive for COVID-19 in late June. The 34-year old southpaw from Coram, New York was at the tail end of having contracted the infectious disease at the time of his positive test, thus only forcing a 12-day delay.
Oquendo had not yet left Puerto Rico at the time of the first postponement, but had already arrived in Vegas and on site for Monday's weigh-in at the time that word began to spread that the main event was in peril.
“I’m extremely disappointed that I’m not going to be able to fight tomorrow night," stated a dejected Herring. "As I’ve shared previously, I tested positive for COVID-19 on June 22 after exhibiting symptoms. I quarantined and recovered as directed by my doctor. I then retested on July 3 and my test was negative, so this result is a complete surprise.
"I was fully prepared to make my second title defense [Tuesday] night. I am hoping that my team and Top Rank can reschedule this fight soon. Thank you for all the support everyone has shown. I can’t wait to get back in the ring and perform.”
Mayer and Joseph will now command the top spot in the first female headliner on ESPN since Top Rank began its output deal with the network in 2017.
Their bout was originally scheduled to take place June 9, only for Mayer to be scratched from the show after what turned out to be a false positive. The unbeaten junior lightweight tested negative upon leaving training camp in Houston in early June, and again when she arrived home in Colorado, but the damage had been done by that point. Redemption comes not only in the form of the rescheduled fight but now as the evening's headlining act.
Tuesday's show is now down to four bouts as another bout was struck by COVID-19. It marks the second straight time that Edward Vazquez is left without a fight in The Bubble, as opponent Luis Melendez tested positive for the infectious disease. Vazquez was also pulled from the June 16 show after his scheduled opponent, Chris Zavala tested positive prior to both fighters traveling to Vegas.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox