By Jake Donovan
Jamel Herring knew he was taking a big risk in entering the free agent market after allowing his five-year contract with adviser Al Haymon expire to close out 2017.
The reward for that gamble has finally arrived for the fighting Marine.
Terms have long ago been reached for Herring to challenge reigning 130-pound titlist Masayuki Ito, despite the title fight having yet to be formally announced. The delay was due to a location being sought, but BoxingScene.com has learned that a deal is close to air the May 25 ESPN telecast live from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Southern California.
Once a specific on-site location is secured, it will mark the first time ever that a U.S. Marine will fight for a major title on a Marine Corps base—as fitting a backdrop considering the show comes at the starting point of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
The date is doubly significant to Herring landing his first career title fight.
The holiday weekend is in tribute to U.S. soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their country. For Herring, May 25 represents what would have been the 10th birthday of his daughter Ari, who was just two months young when she passed away in July ’09 from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Japan’s Ito (25-1-1, 13KOs) will be attempting the second defense of the title he claimed in a shockingly dominant win over previously unbeaten Christopher Martin last July in Florida. The bout streamed live on ESPN+, as did his lone defense to date—a 7th round knockout of Evgeny Chuprakov last New Year’s Eve weekend in Japan.
The fact that Top Rank and ESPN picked up the bout lent strong credence to the suggestion of the Las Vegas-based promotional outfit one day matching the streaking 28-year old titlist—who has won his last nine starts—with its own 130-pound contender.
Herring (19-2, 10KO) joined the Top Rank family last summer after having spent the entirely of his first five years in the pro ranks fighting under Haymon’s advisory. The 33-year old southpaw from eastern Long Island was developed as a rising prospect at that time, but never fully a priority among a stable of boxers which grew to as deep as 200 at the height of Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) creation.
His first headliner came in a 10-round win over Luis Florez, which topped a Feb. ’16 PBC on FS1 telecast, scoring a landslide decision on the night. Two losses in his next three fights would follow, suffering a 10th round stoppage at the hands of Denis Shafikov—who would go on to challenge for the lightweight title—and then two fights later coming up on the wrong end of a 10-round decision versus unbeaten Ladarius Miller.
The latter bout was Herring’s final fight under contract with Haymon and PBC. He entered 2018 in search of a new promoter and training staff, finding both in joining the Top Rank family and enlisting the services of Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre, who is best known for his work with unbeaten three-division titlist and current pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford.
Three straight victories have followed, beginning with a 5th round knockout of Juan Pablo Sanchez last May at Madison Square Garden. A pair of lopsided decision victories have followed, having patiently waited for his shot at a title following an eight-round shutout of Brazil’s Adeilson dos Santos last December.
Wedged in between came an equally dominant 10-round victory over John Vincent Moralde last September. The main event featured Herring’s 2012 U.S. Olympic teammate Jose Ramirez in a 12-round title-defending win over Antonio Orozco, but the promotional buildup was hardly limited to the marquee attraction.
Herring—whose win over Moralde served as the ESPN-televised chief support—was granted a significant portion of the spotlight. Event handlers focused on his military background, which includes his having served two tours in Iraq during his time as a U.S. Marine.
The rising contender spoke with local veterans, active Marines and future cadets during Fight Week, with his ring walk lined by 50 U.S. Marine Corps soldiers among the many more in attendance.
Now, he gets to represent the Corps in a way no other boxing Marine has been afforded.