By Jake Donovan
In an industry littered with bullying personalities, Jamel Herring is as humble as they come.
That said, the super featherweight southpaw doesn’t take issue with becoming the bully in the ring once the opening bell sounds.
It’s been the approach for Herring since dropping down from the lightweight division and a role he figures to play ahead of his first major title fight. That moment comes this weekend, when he faces defending super featherweight titlist Masayuki Ito in the main event at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida (Saturday, ESPN, 10:00pm ET).
“This is probably one of the best camps that I have had,” Herring (19-2, 10KOs) said of his preparation ahead of Saturday’s showdown versus Japan’s Ito (25-1-1, 13KOs), who makes the second defense of the title he claimed in this very region last July.
Herring comes in having won three straight, all coming just outside the super featherweight division and since aligning himself with Top Rank and renowned trainer Brian ‘BoMac’ McIntyre. The journey began with a 5th round stoppage of Juan Pablo Sanchez on the undercard of stablemate and unbeaten pound-for-pound king Terence ‘Bud Crawford’s knockout win over Felix Diaz last May at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
From there came a pair of decision wins over John Vincent Moralde and Adelison dos Santos, both of which were carried live on ESPN platforms. While none of his past three opponents are on the same level as Ito, Herring used the fights to work on a variety of things to elevate his game in anticipation of his first career title fight.
Legitimate questions arise of whether Ito comes in equally as prepared. The 28-year old from Tokyo has won nine straight since the lone loss of his career, a 10-round decision to then-unbeaten countryman Rikki Naito in Feb. 2015.
Like Herring, Naito is a rangy southpaw whose style is in stark contrast to most of the lot Ito has since beaten. This weekend will mark the first time for the 5’8½” super featherweight where he is at a size disadvantage, which was not at all the case in each of his last two title fights.
Christopher Diaz and Evgeny Chuprakov were unbeaten contenders ahead of their respective challenges of Ito, both coming up well short in the end.
Puerto Rico’s Diaz was decked early en route to a landslide decision defeat in their vacant title fight last July. The 5’6” slugger has since dropped back down to featherweight where he has spent most of his career.
Russia’s Chuprakov gave away three inches in height and five inches in reach in their title fight last December. The unbeaten contender was no match for Ito, whom dominated their ESPN+-streamed main event in scoring a 7th round knockout.
Such advantages won’t be made available versus the 5’10” Herring.
“I’m the bigger man and the more experienced of the two,” notes Herring, who served as team captain for the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing squad in London. “I don’t take any fighter lightly, especially not a world champion. But I am very comfortable at this weight and ready on Saturday night to go to work and get that strap.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox