JAMEL HERRING has been watching Carl Frampton. The WBO super-featherweight champion expects to meet the Northern Irishman in November, if Herring gets through Saturday’s (September 5) defence against Jonathan Oquendo. It made him an interested observer of Frampton’s latest bout, against short-notice sub Darren Traynor.
“I love how Carl is honest. He doesn’t make any excuses. He knows it and we all know – it wasn’t the best Carl Frampton that we have seen. He looked a little bit sluggish going into the fifth, just a little bit winded. It could be he wasn’t that motivated for this fight, especially when you’ve got to deal with not knowing if you’re going to fight because his original opponent got pulled,” Herring told Boxing News. “He looked a little bit slower, that could have been the extra weight as well because it was contested at lightweight.”
“[It] wasn’t the same Frampton we saw three or four years ago,” he continued. “He had a rough start in that [Josh Warrington] fight but he actually got good as the fight went on. But now that there’s a potential megafight between him and I maybe he can find that extra motivation to bring out the best Carl Frampton. So I don’t really go off the past.” But Herring added, “He knows he has to be a better version of himself if he wants to be successful against me.”
However he fully understands the significance of their fight to Frampton. It offers him the chance to become a three-weight world titlist and secure his place in boxing history. “You put a world title on the line and depending on how mentally strong you are and how hungry you are inside, you can really bring out the best version of yourself. So I have to keep that in mind with everybody. Like they always say it’s hard to win the world title but it’s even harder to keep it. So I believe in that. I believe in that saying,” Herring said.
For many, the fascination of their fight will be Herring’s dramatic size advantage against Frampton’s skill and experience. “Sometimes negative things, they motivate me,” the American said. “They don’t so much mention the skill level. They always mention the weight, the weight, [asking] does he have a hard time making weight?
“Trust me the weight won’t be an issue especially when I’m motivated for something like the Carl Frampton fight, I’d be stupid not to do things the right way.
“I’m going to make sure that I do everything the right way to keep my world title, not only from losing it on the scales, but losing in the fight as well.”
“If they’re focusing so much on weight they’re going to be in for a rude awakening. Because my and my team always believes health comes before anything,” he added. “Because you and I were seeing this last year alone, too many fighters were dying in the ring because of health. When you don’t have enough fluid around the brain, that’s when you have head injuries.”
“We do everything the right way,” he maintains. “I’m taller than ‘Bud’, I am taller than Terence Crawford, I’m actually taller than Errol Spence [another welterweight champion, but] the weight is not an issue in terms of making it. You’ve got to stay disciplined.”
Nor does Herring hide his admiration for Frampton. “Carl Frampton beats me in experience. He’s been in more world title fights. He’s fought more world champions than I have. You have to take everything into consideration at the world level. So I never get ahead of myself,” he said. “I don’t believe any world title fight is easy. I believe for Carl Frampton, even if he loses the fight, he could still go on as one of the best in his era. I’ve got to look at it as a hungry guy coming after something I want to keep.”
The New Yorker had been willing to come to Belfast to box Frampton in front of his passionate fanbase. “I was going to give Carl that respect,” Herring said, appreciative of Frampton stepping up to super-feather to make a big fight with him. This came after potential bouts for Herring with Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez had eluded the American. With coronavirus restrictions, however, it is now unlikely that a crowd will be permitted to watch so their fight looks destined for Las Vegas, probably behind closed doors in ‘The Bubble.’
“That crowd motivation. They basically took that away from Carl. Now how does he feel going into this fight?” Herring said. “We don’t know how it’s going to look in November. It could be a closed session again. So that doesn’t bother me. You have to ask him that because I’ve been at the bottom. I started at the bottom and I rose up.
“That’s something that may affect him more than it will me. Because me, I’m still that hungry fighter. I didn’t care that it was in Belfast because I just want to prove that I’m a legit, great world champion. I told Top Rank, let’s have it in Belfast.”
Herring of course has to remain on track against Oquendo. “I look forward to the [Frampton] fight but first things first, I’ve got to get Jonathan Oquendo out the way,” he said. “He’s probably feeling a chip on his shoulder, [thinking,] ‘These people are looking past me and the fight hasn’t even happened yet.’
“I was the same way again when I fought [Masayuki] Ito [for the world title in the first place]. I was going they’re already counting me out before I even got in the ring. So guess what I’m going to do. And here I am now.”
Today Herring looks like a formidable opponent for anyone in the weight class. But he has had to rally from defeats earlier in his career. Denis Shafikov stopped him in 2016 and the following year Ladarius Miller took a decision over him.
“I’ve had ups and downs. The Shafikov fight alone, that was tough on me. The Ladarius Miller fight, though I thought I won it, I was more disappointed that I didn’t get that victory. So that’s why I had to make a change in my career, and even then, when I made the change in my career, to change trainers to work alongside Terence Crawford and the gang, I was still being counted out,” Herring recalled. “I think the Shafikov fight especially, the fight taught me a lot in terms of level where I have to be at.
“It can either make you or break you. I went through a lot. I suffered through a lot through that fight. But I didn’t let it break me. I didn’t want people to remember my career based off that fight.”
“They’ll remember your last fight and how you left the boxing world. So I didn’t want to leave boxing on that bad note. If anything it just taught me a valuable lesson what I needed to do, if I wanted to get to where I’m at now. Nobody’s perfect, we all can’t be Floyd Mayweather of course. If we can we would accept a Manny Pacquiao career,” he laughed. “Pacquiao had losses in his career and yet he’s still been able to achieve great things and he’s going down as one of the best in boxing history. The dark times only just revealed who was actually there for me and what I had to do as a fighter.”
In his toughest moments as a boxer, Herring has drawn on the discipline and determination he learned in his military career to help him through adversity. “I go through maybe a hard round, I go back to the corner, I sit down and during that minute, even though I’m listening to the instructions at the same time in my mind I’m saying I’ve been through worse. I’ve been overseas in Iraq twice. I’ve lost friends, I lost family, I’ve been through hardship and yet I’m still here. So if I can get through that I can definitely get through a 10, 12-round fight. So that’s how I look at things. And the Marine corps background definitely helps with the discipline factor,” Jamel reflected.
A New Yorker he enlisted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks at just 18 years old. “I wanted to do something more important, at the time I felt that was more important, with my life. So that was the main factor of me joining the Marine corps,” Jamel said.
He had boxed for a couple of years before joining the Marines, losing for the first time to none other than Danny Jacobs, before pursuing his amateur boxing career in the military. He became an Olympian and boxed the likes of Josh Taylor at a Test Event in London. The sport would also provide him with solace as he coped with mental anguish after returning from the war in Iraq. “My first tour, I was only 19 years old. I was still a kid. You have to grow up fast,” he recalled. “I’ve seen a lot of things that are a wake up call.
“I was just happy to see when I came back home, grass, proper plumbing, things of that nature… It opened my eyes to appreciate what I have in life now.”
“I’ve had my own tragedies and suffered through PTSD. For me boxing was more therapeutic so when I got in a gym during my military career, I always zoned out everything I was going through personally,” Herring reflected. “At one point when I was going through a lot in the military it was boxing that kept me grounded and kept me focused. And then when I’m going through things in the boxing ring I always think about my experiences and time in the military.”
Herring speaks openly about his own mental health and has seen issues around PTSD become increasingly better understood. “I have no issue expressing what I’m going through. I want you to open up as well and maybe if you open up, you will find some relief in that and you will get up and get the proper help that I did. I’m definitely happy to make this scenario of PTSD more [understood]. I have lost actually friends in the military to suicide and things of that nature because they didn’t know how to deal with their struggle and their depression,” Jamel said. “They didn’t know how to get the proper help. Or they felt that they had to keep things, you know, tucked inside.
“That takes a strong individual to open up to the world and tell you what they’re going through. And that’s the reason why you see me when I was suffering through PTSD, when I was going out in front of military personnel and people and sharing my story, it was because of guys like Tyson Fury [talking about his mental health]. I always give him credit for that.”
Herring is driven to succeed as a boxer. His comeback from the lockdown had been stalled after he himself contracted Covid 19 and then his rescheduled bout with Oquendo in July was postponed a second time when he failed a coronavirus test. He can, at last, restart his career. Win on September 5 and he can look to Frampton and his most significant fight to date. “This is big. It’s sort of like a competitive thing between me and Carl Frampton in terms of how we look against our opponents. So this is still a big fight. I don’t look past Oquendo because of course, you got guys who want to come and ruin the party and we have seen a lot of upsets,” he said.
“I’m just a regular guy as well, but I have goals and ambitions as well and I don’t fall back on ‘okay, I won a world title. Okay, I’m making decent amount of money.’ No, I’m still hungry. And I still want to continue to do great things in the sport.”