Jamel Herring retires, leaving a legacy of determination and true class

Fighting

Jamel Herring announced his retirement following his Saturday night loss to Jamaine Ortiz on ESPN, a decision he seemed to be making in the ring during his post-fight interview, but made official via social media.

“I love this sport, but I owe it to my family to quit putting them through these moments,” Herring wrote on Twitter. “Thank you all, whether you were with or against me. You made me who I am, but it’s time. Semper Fi, salute.”

The loss was the second straight for the 36-year-old Herring, who had an eventful boxing career to say the least, earning respect in the ring for his performances and skills, and universally outside of the ring for his class, attitude, and the way he carried himself at all times.

While serving in the United States Marine Corps and doing two tours of duty in Iraq, Herring was also a standout amateur boxer, and was captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team, one that went down in history for winning zero medals on the men’s side, but also produced several future pro world champions, including Errol Spence Jr, Joseph Diaz Jr, Rau’shee Warren, Jose Ramirez, and Herring himself.

Turning professional in Dec. 2012, Herring didn’t really stand out from the pack among his Olympic squad-mates who did the same. He was 27 when he turned pro, much older than the majority, and though he ran his record to 15-0, he was always seen as someone who would fall short of the top tier, at least by most pundits and fans, and I’ll be honest and include myself in that.

He lost a fight to Denis Shafikov in 2016, and one to Ladarius Miller in 2017. But Herring made a bold move, going down to 130 lbs, signing with Top Rank, and hooking up with Terence Crawford’s camp and trainer Brian “BoMac” McIntyre.

In 2019, he got a shot at Masayuki Ito’s WBO junior lightweight title. He won clean and clear in an ESPN main event, and he was a world champion, defying the predictions through determination, yes, but also a skill set that he never stopped trying to make better, which is sometimes overlooked.

After successful defenses against Lamont Roach, Jonathan Oquendo, and Carl Frampton, Herring did lose the belt in Oct. 2021 to rising pound-for-pound contender Shakur Stevenson. He moved back to 135, got a new team again, and tried to find his way back into contention on Saturday.

It just wasn’t quite there, and not for lack of effort. He was in good shape. But he didn’t have what he wanted in the ring, and young Jamaine Ortiz made his shot against Herring count.

But Jamel Herring does not leave active competition with anything but pride in what he’s accomplished.

Some years back, Jamel actually responded to something I’d said. It wasn’t an over-the-top, “this guy sucks!” sort of criticism, but my honest assessment at the time, that he just wasn’t going to be a top guy in professional boxing. And he did not respond with anger or arrogance, either. In short, he was certain that he would prove me — and anyone like me — wrong.

He did, and he did so without displaying any need to have people hype him up or stroke his ego. Jamel Herring simply earned respect, as a fighter and as a man. He is one of the finest representatives the sport of boxing has ever had, and here’s hoping he sticks around in some capacity or another, because any sport, any business, any industry, or any community could use more people like Jamel Herring.

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