THE Osceola Heritage Park arena was packed with Marines. They were there to witness their brother Jamel Herring try to lift the WBO super-featherweight title from Masayuki Ito. Joining them was Herring’s close friend and stablemate Terence Crawford, who sat near the corner and communicated with him throughout the fight.
Herring had additional support as well, but his greatest motivation was to deliver the title as a birthday gift to his daughter Ariyanah, who would have been 10 on this day had she still been alive. Ariyanah died of SIDS in 2009 and has been a source of strength for Herring since.
A veteran who served two tours in Iraq and who captained the United States boxing team in the 2012 London Olympics, underdog Herring had the stars aligned to pull off the upset, which he did by unanimous 12-round decision.
Southpaw Herring boxed smartly, taking it one round at a time, continuously jabbing while moving side to side. Ito, who had his own family and friends fly in from Tokyo for this his second defence, pressed forward but was not effectively cutting off the ring. His long rights would rarely connect as the quicker Herring would score and move out of range.
In the eighth Herring went off script and stood in the pocket, exchanging punches all round. Although Jamel held his own, he was scolded by trainer Brian McIntyre when he returned to his corner for deviating from the strategy that had been so successful. Herring got the message and continued to dominate from long range.
Ito could see his title slipping away. He desperately made a late charge, going all out in the final round. As the seconds ticked away the celebration was akin to New Year’s Eve as we await the clock striking midnight.
However, this is boxing and the true validation would not occur until the judges rendered their decision (Alex Levin 116-112, Lisa Giampa and Thomas Nardone both 118-110). Frank Gentile refereed.
Upon hearing the words “THE NEW”, Herring, 33, who was born in New York, lives in Cincinnati, and trains in Omaha, dropped to his knees. The happiness by those in his inner circle and the approximately 3,000 in attendance (Top Rank promoted) was overwhelming.
WBC champion Miguel Berchelt was brought into the ring. The plan was for him to challenge the winner to a unification fight, but upon seeing the ecstasy around the new champion, Berchelt understood the rhetoric should be saved for another time. Herring is not likely to have a long reign, but everyone will long remember what he did here on this night.
In the chief support, former two-weight world champion Jose Pedraza stopped Tijuana’s Antonio Lozada at 2-34 in the ninth round of a slated 10.
Pedraza, boxing for the first time since losing his WBO 135lb title to Vasyl Lomachenko in December, looked terrific in handling Lozada’s pressure. He moved, counterpunched, and gradually picked Lozada apart, landing punishing blows to the body. It was Lozada’s plan to force Pedraza to the ropes, but once there the Puerto Rican scored repeatedly off them.
A straight left dropped Lozada for an eight count in the ninth. There was no quit in him, but when he was forced back to the ropes and on the receiving end of blows, his father and trainer Antonio Lozada Jnr climbed onto the ring apron and informed referee Telis Asseminios he wanted it stopped.
Adam Lopez was dropped in the second round of his scheduled 10 against Orlando’s Jean Carlos Rivera for the vacant NABF super-bantamweight title. But the Glendale, California fighter gradually turned things around, registering his own knockdown in the sixth.
Rivera was not fully recovered when he came out for the seventh and could not survive Lopez’s whirlwind attack. At 16 seconds of the round referee Massimo Montanini stopped the fight.
Tokyo’s Koki Eto dropped unbeaten Jeyvier Cintron from Bayamon with a counter right that had him staggering all over the ring. Referee Andrew Glenn stopped it at 2-37, giving Eto a massive upset victory. But in a stunning reversal, the Florida Commission declared the bout a No Contest later in the evening, saying Cintron had been butted prior to the punch landing. The decision by the Commission was pure rubbish.
The Verdict Nobody will begrudge nice guy Herring his moment in the sun.