SAN DIEGO Calif., September 4, 2020 – Semper Fidelis has been the U.S. Marine Corps motto since 1883. It embodies the promise to always remain faithful, no matter what.
Marine Corps veteran and WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring of Cincinnati (21-2, 10 KO) has seen his loyalty tested over the past few months. Two scheduled title defenses on July 2 and July 14 in The Bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas were derailed by positive testing for COVID-19. Herring fell ill at the end of June, but his symptoms did not last long or interrupt his training beyond a matter of days in Omaha at the camp of Terence Crawford. His second positive test was a surprise and perhaps a phantom result, but the safety of everyone involved came first and the second cancellation occurred.
After a successful weigh-in Friday, Herring’s bout with veteran Jonathan Oquendo of Puerto Rico (31-6, 19 KOs) will finally take place on Saturday, September 5 as the main event of a card on ESPN+, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT. It is Herring’s second title defense. Oquendo, age 37, attempts to win a world title for the second time.
Herring ‘happy to be here’
The 33-year-old Iraq veteran fought battles against PTSD and the sorrow of losing an infant daughter Ariyannah to SIDS 11 years ago. It’s made Herring’s success all the sweeter. He is full of boundless confidence in a time where many others are struggling. Herring understands it.
“I just feel like everything happens for a reason. It’s not like I was the only one suffering. It’s a global pandemic, so I can’t really complain too much. I’m just glad that I have a great team,” said Herring at Thursday’s final pre-fight news conference.
“Going through a global pandemic, I was still fortunate to have training camp. Being around (Crawford), Steven Nelson, who is also fighting this weekend, Rob Brant, Maurice Hooker, and so many guys coming in that gym, I’m just grateful. Despite all the setbacks, I’m still able to handle business. I sparred every other day. We have a track. To me, it’s just another day at the job, and I’m just happy to be here.”
Oquendo was disappointed by the delays but knows it couldn’t be helped. “I knew things were going to be OK. I understand the position of my opponent. I was worried about the fight never happening, but I had faith in Top Rank, and I know they do a good job. I’m ready to go for it Saturday night.”
Herring and Oquendo have no reason to trash talk each other. They are experienced professionals and they’re both more than ready to get down to business.
“I want to congratulate Herring,” said Oquendo. “I know he’s a great fighter. He deserves everything he has right now, and I will try my best on Saturday night. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.
“I’m 37 years old, but mentally, I’m prepared. I believe this is the perfect time for me to fight for a world title. I want to show the world what I’m capable of doing.”
“My job is to focus on what’s in front of me. I can’t really worry about what’s going on outside,” said Herring. “It’s just a great opportunity for fighters to be back in the ring, period. Despite having no crowd, we’re still fortunate to be doing what we love and do for a living. That’s all that matters to me.
“Everything was a process. I’m not really worried about what’s going on. With this series, we’ve seen many, many upsets because fighters tend to maybe not train their best or look ahead to things,” said Herring. Herring joked the running play by play from trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre whose booming voice is audible without a ringside audience might be the highlight of the show.
Oquendo is a sturdy but not terribly threatening opponent who should allow Herring to loosen up and put in some work. It’s a much-needed tune-up prior to an anticipated showdown with former world champion Carl Frampton, who recently won his own post-pandemic return to the ring at home in Belfast. It is a fight both men have long discussed and fans have eagerly anticipated. With a win, the Herring vs. Frampton fight should take place before the end of 2020.
In the co-feature, unbeaten super middleweight Steven Nelson of Omaha (16-0, 13 KOs), a stablemate of Herring’s, will fight DeAndre Ware of St. Louis (13-2-2, 8 KOs) in a 10-rounder.
Jared Anderson makes it three in The Bubble
Unbeaten heavyweight Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson of Toledo (5-0, 5 KOs) has made the most of his time in The Bubble, winning two impressive fights. He faces Rodney Hernandez of Modesto, California (13-9-2, 4 KOs) in a fight scheduled for eight rounds but sure to fall far short. Hernandez has tangled with some recognizable names including Adam Kownacki, Michael Hunter, and Efe Ajagba.
Anderson said, “I’ve made my home in the ‘Bubble’ this summer, and I’ve enjoyed coming to Las Vegas and putting on a heavyweight show for the fans. I don’t know too much about Rodney Hernandez, but I know he’s been in there with a lot of top guys and usually goes rounds. I can’t wait for this one. Top Rank keeps lining these guys up, and I’m knocking them out.”
Undercard fights scheduled for Saturday’s card
Light flyweight prospect Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez of San Antonio (11-0, 7 KOs) faces Janiel Rivera of Puerto Rico (18-6-3, 11 KOs) in an eight-round bout. Rodriguez, promoted by Teiken Promotion of Japan, is riding a three-knockout streak.
Ruben Cervera of Colombia (12-2, 10 KOs), who defeated Clay “Third Degree” Burns in The Bubble in July, fights New Orleans native Rennard Oliver (7-2-3, 0 KOs) at junior lightweight.
Edward “Kid” Vazquez of Fort Worth (7-0, 1 KO) debuts in The Bubble against Adan “Temo” Ochoa of Los Angeles (11-1, 4 KOs) in a six-round junior lightweight bout. Ochoa’s only loss came to the tough Adam Lopez who gave Oscar Valdez a Bubble battle.
D’Andre Smith of Decatur, Georgia (8-0. 5 KOs) faces replacement opponent Benjamin Whitaker of San Antonio (13-4, 3 KOs) at welterweight.
Former amateur standout Rashiem Jefferson of Philadelphia (1-0) faces Jose Martinez of Los Angeles (2-1, 1 KO) in a four-round featherweight opener. Jefferson made his pro debut in March just prior to the pandemic shutdown. A lot has changed since then.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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