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Herring vs Stevenson in All-American showdown, Atlanta Saturday, ESPN

Written By | Oct 23, 2021
Jamel Herring (L) and Shakur Stevenson (R) pose during their weigh in prior to their WBO world junior lightweight championship fight in Atlanta Saturday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images Herring vs Stevenson

Jamel Herring (L) and Shakur Stevenson (R) pose during their weigh in prior to their WBO world junior lightweight championship fight in Atlanta Saturday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

SAN DIEGO Calif., October 22, 2021 – The WBO World Super Featherweight title is at stake Saturday as champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring of Cinncinati via Coram, New York (23-2, 11 KOs) faces 2016 Olympic silver medalist and ambitious young star Shakur Stevenson of New Jersey (16-0, 8 KOs). The fight takes place Saturday night from State Farm Arena in Atlanta across all ESPN channels starting at 10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT.

Choose your storyline. There’s something for everyone. There is the compelling story of the US Marine Corps veteran of two tours in the Middle East who struggled with PTSD, with losses that threatened to derail his pro career, and the death of Herring’s two-year-old daughter Ariyanah of SIDS 12 years ago. Herring changed promoters, changed trainers, and changed weight divisions, reinventing himself by hard work fueled by sheer will to win his title.

Stevenson, who is 11 years younger than Herring at age 24, has been destined for boxing greatness since turning pro after narrowly missing a gold medal in 2016. He hasn’t been seriously challenged by his opponents and continues to blow out opponents by wide margins on the scorecards.

Herring: Being the underdog ‘nothing new’

Jamel Herring (left) put on the performance of his career, stopping former world champion Carl Frampton in six rounds. Photo: D4G Boxing Jamel Herring retires

Jamel Herring (left) put on the performance of his career, stopping former world champion Carl Frampton in six rounds in April. Photo: D4G Boxing

This changes for Stevenson on Saturday. Herring, age 35, will make the fourth defense of his hard-earned belt and doesn’t intend to let it go easily. Even though he’s the champion, Herring is the underdog but says it’s nothing new.




“The odds just play to my story. I’ve always been an underdog, not just in boxing but in life, so I don’t get into the oddsmaker thing. It doesn’t bother me at all,” said Herring. “It just feels like another elite level fight in a loaded and talented division, so we just take it one fight at a time. We put all personal feelings to the side and just go to work and do what we have to do.”

Shakur Stevenson argues with Herring trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre after the press conference with Herring earlier this week at Omni Atlanta Hotel. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Stevenson and Herring are acquainted, friendly but not friends, and both fighters and their camps have traded taunts. In the week leading up to the fight, Stevenson has tried to put hands on Herring’s belt during faceoffs. Herring slapped Stevenson clear. Herring says it’s not personal, and Stevenson agrees.

“It’s definitely not personal, just business at the end of the day. He’s not my friend. I don’t hit him up and say, ‘let’s fight.'” We don’t have any conversations. I don’t talk to Jamel Herring outside of boxing.”

Stevenson: ‘My coming out party’

Shakur Stevenson (left) delivered a quality performance against Christopher Diaz. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Shakur Stevenson (left) delivered a quality performance against Christopher Diaz in 2019. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Stevenson goes into his first fight facing a champion. He says it will be his “coming out party,” and he’ll relish sticking it to Herring and his trainers, Brian “Bomac” McIntrye and Red Spikes. “It’s going to feel real good beating the whole team. I can’t wait to go against them. It’s not just Jamel that I’m fighting. I’ve got to beat Bomac and Red, and it’ll feel good doing that.”

It doesn’t have the quality hate of Fury versus Wilder, but the animosity is real and fueling both men.

Few fighters work harder than Herring. He dropped to super featherweight after his two losses, and to be able to still make 130 pounds at age 35 is a testament to his Marine Corps honed discipline. When Herring combines it with an intelligent game plan and his sheer will to win, he finds a way.

But Stevenson will put him to the test. The younger, slicker Stevenson can’t underestimate someone as driven as Herring. He needs to keep his emotions in check. If Herring’s needling and steely mind games have intimidated Stevenson, he could get mentally and physically rattled by the naturally bigger Herring roughing him up early in the fight.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Mind games may come into play Saturday between Jamel Herring (L) and Shakur Stevenson. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Herring needs to unleash the beast against Stevenson. He cannot easily win a tactical fight. Stevenson’s defensive skills are world-class. He’s hard to find and harder to hit. Close rounds on the scorecards will go to Stevenson.

Herring needs to land the same sort of wicked uppercuts that chopped down Carl Frampton and throw Stevenson off his game plan, making him uncomfortable by any means necessary. He’s capable of it, but Herring can’t hesitate to seize any opportunity.

Wild card factors: condition and cuts

Jamel Herring was cut due to an intentional headbutt in the fifth round. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Jamel Herring was cut due to an intentional headbutt in the fifth round against Jonathan Oquendo in September 2020. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Which fighter has the greater stamina in the championship rounds? The edge usually goes to the younger man, but Herring appears trained to perfection. Herring’s stamina should serve him well if he can press Stevenson into gassing out.



Will Herring’s face stand up? Herring is prone to cuts, and if he suffers a cut in a bad spot early, Herring will fight with a significant disadvantage.

Playing mind games: War isn’t just a boxing metaphor to the Marine Corps veteran. He’s been tested tough. Herring should mess with Stevenson and yank his chain in every way he can to make him lose focus and lose his cool.

Prediction: Stevenson by decision

It will be difficult for Stevenson to stop Herring, who’s never lost in the 130-pound division. But he will get the benefit of the doubt on the scorecards from the judges as the overwhelming favorite to win. Stevenson’s “hit and don’t get hit” approach gives him the eye test edge. If Herring is going to win, his best route is a knockdown (or two) or a stoppage. He will need to win rounds by a clear margin or win at least nine or ten rounds to ensure he has enough at the end of the fight. Swing rounds will favor Stevenson.

It’s nearly impossible to pick against Stevenson in a decision win, and most betting lines agree. But it’s also almost impossible not to root for the Fighting Marine, whose backstory, service, and will to win are so compelling. This is a prediction where the writer will be glad to be wrong at the end of the night.

Xander Zayas, Nico Ali Walsh round out main card

Is Xander Zayas the next great Puerto Rican champion? He's made a good start. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Imagesv

Is Xander Zayas the next great Puerto Rican champion? He’s made a good start. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In the co-main event, 19-year-old Puerto Rican super welterweight Xander Zayas (10-0, 7 KOs), who trains in Florida, fights six-round (or less) against Dan Karpency of Pennsylvania (9-3-1, 4 KOs). Zayas appears much more mature in the ring than his age. “I’m grateful to be here,” said Zayas. It’s just an amazing experience to be 19 years old making my ESPN debut. I’m ready to go, and on Saturday night, I’m going to show it. I like to have fun and keep it simple and smile for the camera.”

Nico Ali Walsh (L) and James Westley II (R) pose during the weigh-in. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Young middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, the grandson of Muhammad Ali, appears in his second professional fight against James Westley II of Toledo (1-0).

“All of the greats say that the first fight is always the hardest,” said Walsh. “The first is out of the way, so it’s all fun from here on out. I love boxing, it’s my passion, and I’m looking forward to continuing my grandfather’s legacy and creating my own.”

Westley is 36 years old and made his pro debut just four months ago. Be in your seat at the bell if you want to see the few seconds Walsh is in the ring.

Undercard features Evan Holyfield, Troy Isley

Evan Holyfield has been quietly gaining experience out of the limelight, steadily improving his skills. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

The earlier undercard airing on streaming channel ESPN+ features another young fighter from a famous boxing family. Super welterweight prospect Evan Holyfield (7-0, 5 KOs) is the son of Atlanta resident and former four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

“My dad always tells me to train at my hardest,” said Holyfield. “I’ve been real focused this training camp, and I’m just ready to go to work. It’s like a kid in a candy store just being around all of this talent. It’s an honor. We got Xander Zayas, Shakur Stevenson, Jamel Herring, and Nico Ali. It’s nothing but greatness.”

Holyfield faces former MMA fighter Charles Stanford of Ohio (6-3, 3 KOs), who’s been stopped twice, once by Montana Love. Easy work for Yung Holy.

US Olympian Troy Isley (L) and Nicholi Navarro (R) faceoff in Atlanta. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Also on the card is Tokyo 2020 US Olympic Team middleweight Troy Isley in his third pro bout, and local Atlanta area boxer Haven Brady Jr., who’s won all three of his pro bouts at featherweight by knockout.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer and award-winning journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.  

 

 

Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.