For months, Jamel Herring has been forced to listen to claims carrying a wide range of insults though all with a common theme—that he can’t not handle the challenger in waiting for his title.
The reigning WBO junior lightweight champion is eager to prove the doubters wrong, making a point to be in the house for Shakur Stevenson’s shutout win of Jeremia Nakathila this past Saturday at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The ESPN headliner came with the WBO interim title at stake, assuring Stevenson’s place in line for the main title as per the terms established by the sanctioning body.
Herring (23-2, 11KOs) confirmed in writing earlier this spring his willingness to next honor his mandatory, informing the WBO of his plans to retain the title and next face Stevenson. He did so at a time when he had the option to vacate the belt and pursue another divisional champion or even move up in weight, which leaves him baffled as to why any such talks continue of his trying to avoid a showdown with Stevenson.
“I don’t know why anyone would think I don’t want to fight Shakur,” Herring told BoxingScene.com. “If that were the case, I would have just given up my title and gone after another big opportunity.
“I’m proud to have represented the WBO for these past two-plus years and will continue to defend my WBO world title with honor. I’ve never had the easy road but I’m still the same fighter willing to fight the toughest challenges to make my mark.”
A reminder of that was offered Saturday night in the immediate aftermath of Stevenson (16-0, 8KOs) effortlessly turning away Namibia’s Nakathila (21-2, 17KOs).
Stevenson has now won three straight at junior lightweight after abandoning his WBO featherweight title reign. The move came with the blessing of the WBO to insert him as the number-one contender to the 130-pound title, officially becoming the mandatory challenger and waiting out a pair of voluntary defenses by Herring in order to enforce his own title fight.
Herring held up his end, claiming an 8th round disqualification win over Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-7, 19KOs) last September followed by a career-best win in a 6th round knockout of Belfast’s former two-division world champion Carl Frampton (28-3, 16KOs) this past April. The latter bout came on the condition that Herring would next honor his mandatory, an agreement which came on the heels of legal action threatened by Stevenson and his team attempting to block Herring-Frampton.
Despite both verbal and written assurance that he would next face Stevenson, Herring was still met with a series of insults from the unbeaten 23-year-old. The conversation has shifted in recent months from alleging that the 35-year-old southpaw is avoiding the fight, to Stevenson—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist—dismissing such a clash as a mismatch and barely worth his time as he’d rather face WBC titlist Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23KOs), for whom he is also the number one ranked contender.
“I don’t take any of that personal,” Herring noted to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna of the ongoing trash talk hurled in his direction. “I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. I’m here to fight. This is what I do for a living. Everything he’s saying, that’s just boxing talk. I’m not here to down anyone else. I’m just here to do my job, and that’s in the ring with my fists.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox