Jamel Herring has secured his legacy win.
A fight deemed as a virtual pick-‘em heading into the night turned into a showcase performance by Herring, who scored a 6th round knockout of Belfast’s Carl Frampton to defend his WBO junior lightweight title Saturday at Caesars Palace Bluewaters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Herring scored knockdowns in rounds five and six, the latter followed by an onslaught which left Frampton out on his feet in forcing his corner to throw in the towel. The official time was 1:40 of round six.
“It was just an emotional rollercoaster just to get here,” noted Herring, who was the underdog according to some sportsbooks and vilified following his struggling win over Jonathan Oquendo in his previous outing. “My last outing wasn’t my best.”
Herring put his massive five-inch height and seven-inch reach advantage to good use. The 35-year-old southpaw extended his long right jab in the opening round, keeping Frampton on the outside and connecting with a straight left to briefly wobble the Belfast native. Frampton enjoyed brief success when bullying his way inside, though often leading to awkward exchanges between the two.
Action picked up in round two, with Herring equipped for the firefight pace Frampton sought to enforce. Herring landed a flush counter right hook, catching the attention of Frampton who took the shot well but failed to offer a response. The final 30 seconds saw the defending titlist land in combination, both along the ropes and in center ring.
Herring remained in control in round three, though Frampton was able to close the gap by round’s end. The former two-division titlist landed with a right hand in the final seconds of the frame, though Herring’s jab and straight left continued to be a problem.
Frampton pawed with the jab to begin round four, while Herring was forced to fight through a cut over his right eye. Frampton pushed his way inside, connecting with a right hand downstairs before bringing the attack up top. Herring did his best to remain poised, though his right eye was covered in blood—reminiscent of his previous title defense where he suffered a cut over the same eye in an 8th round disqualification win over Jonathan Oquendo last September.
An inside fight broke out in round five, working to Frampton’s advantage—until it didn’t. Frampton bounced a right hand off of Herring’s forehead and looked to press the action. It cost him dearly on the scorecards, as Herring scored the bout’s first knockdown courtesy of a straight left hand as Frampton walked in with his guard down.
Herring was far from done.
Frampton fell straight back from a wicked uppercut early in round six, signaling the beginning of the end. Frampton barely beat the count but was clearly out on his feet as action continued. Herring continued on the attack, battering Frampton until his corner—led by Jamie Moore—called for the end.
Frampton—a former junior featherweight and featherweight titlist—falls to 28-3 (16KOs).
“I just got beat by the better man,” admitted the always humble Frampton after the lone knockout loss of his career. “I really struggled to get inside. He was sharpshooting from a distance and executed a perfect game plan.”
All three career defeats for Frampton have come on the title stage and following his 2016 Fighter of the Year campaign. The fighting pride of Belfast opened the year with a 12-round nod over bitter rival Scott Quigg in their Feb. 2016 battle of unbeaten junior featherweight titlists. Frampton unified two belts before ending his near two-year reign to move up to featherweight.
It was there where he bumped off his second straight unbeaten foe, outpointing Leo Santa Cruz to claim a featherweight belt in their July 2016 thriller at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The bout marked the last time Frampton would win in a title fight, conceding the crown to Santa Cruz in their rematch six months later.
A win over former four-division titlist Nonito Donaire in April 2018 breathed new life into Frampton’s career, only to come up well short in a 12-round loss to then-unbeaten IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington in Dec. 2018.
Two wins above the featherweight limit followed in pursuit of attempting to become a three-division titlist. The journey came with several delays, with the fight versus Herring first due to take place last June in Belfast. The event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with both scoring stay-busy wins last summer. Two more delays followed before the fight relocated to Dubai, where Frampton’s 12-year career comes to a close.
“I said before the fight that I’d retire if I lost,” a teary-eyed Frampton stated afterward. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’ve been away too long. I missed them growing up, my own kids. I want to give my life to my family.
“Boxing’s been good to me, it’s also been bad to me in recent years. I’ve enjoyed the best years of my career and now I just want to go home to my beautiful wife and kids.”
Meanwhile, Herring looks to add more names to his improving résumé.
The decorated U.S. Marine and 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain from Cincinnati by way of Long Island, New York makes the third defense of his title, improving to 23-2 (11KOs). The win extends his title reign dating back to a 12-round unanimous decision win over Japan’s Masayuki Ito in May 2019.
More belts are on his mind for the future.
“I’ve always wanted to get another title,” stated Herring after the career-best win. “This was a great test here. I know (WBC 130-pound titlist) Oscar Valdez has expressed interest in unifying. I would love to fight him.”
Valdez claimed the WBC belt in a tour-de-force performance, dominating Miguel Berchelt en route to a 10th round knockout this past February in Las Vegas.
The move left Herring with immediate thoughts of unification, though a ruling from the WBO will likely limit his options. Herring will have 30 days to decide whether to commit in writing to face the winner of the yet-to-be-announced June 12 interim WBO title fight between former featherweight titlist and current mandatory challenger Shakur Stevenson (14-0, 8KOs) and Namibia’s Jeremiah Nakathila (21-1, 17KOs) or else vacate the belt.
The latter of the two options is expected to be the move, particularly if he could secure what he would view as a higher profile affair for his next outing.
“Most people know I had plans to move up at least,” Herring noted of a possible move to lightweight before bringing the conversation back to Valdez. “But, if that fight’s available, we can make that happen especially if we can make that lineal title available. Let’s get that title on the line and go from there.”
The bout aired live on ESPN+.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox