The lopsided scores from three judges were announced, and everyone in Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida or watching the ESPN telecast knew the clear-cut winner of the WBO superfeatherweight title held by Japan’s Misayuki Ito was going to be Jamel Herring, the fighting Marine from Coram.
But when ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. said the words “and new,” Herring crumpled to his knees in the ring and wept tears of joy at winning his first world title shot at the age of 33 on a very significant day in his life, the birthday of his daughter Ariyanah, who would have been 10 years old had she not died from sudden infant death syndrome at two months old.
Rising to his feet for the ring interview, Herring said, “This is unbelievable. I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I just want to say happy birthday to my daughter who passed away from SIDS. Today would have been her 10th birthday. This is for her. Happy birthday, Ariyanah.”
Herring also mentioned his closest childhood friend from Coram, Stephen Brown, the man who encouraged him to enter the Marines and go on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq. “I’d like to say, ‘I love you Lance Corporal Stephen Brown. I miss you, bro,’ Herring said to his friend, who died of lung cancer in 2004. Then, to all his supporters in the places where he has lived and worked, Herring added, “A shoutout to everybody back on Long Island, Cincinnati, Omaha and all my veterans out there, this is for you. Oo-rah!”
It was the happiest ending possible to Herring’s story of overcoming adversity in his personal life, including suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, to become a boxing late-bloomer who served as captain of the U.S. Olympic boxing team at the 2012 London Olympics before turning pro late that year at the age of 27.
This was just his fourth fight since moving from Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions to Top Rank, where he became a member of the camp of WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who was at ringside, and worked with Crawford’s trainer, Brian McIntyre. Although he was dropping to 130 from the 135-pound lightweight division, Herring (20-2, 10 KOs) never was stronger or better-conditioned in his career, and it showed against Ito (25-2-1, 13 KOs).
The judges rendered a one-sided decision in favor of Herring by scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 116-112. Newsday scored it 118-110 for Herring, who was the more skilled boxer and who used his superior strength to fend off the clutching and grabbing tactics Ito used throughout.
According to CompuBox stats, Herring landed 146 of 528 (27.7 percent) punches compared to 99 of 498 (19.9 percent) by Ito who landed just eight of 146 jabs (5.5 percent) to 52 of 248 (21.1 percent) by the southpaw Herring, who held a narrow 94-91 advantage in power punches landed.
Herring controlled the fight with his jab, while Ito focused on trying to land his right hand. The champion often lunged forward, missed the right and got caught with counter left hooks by Herring.
WBA 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt was at ringside and joined Herring in the ring to ask for a unification bout. “They thought they were going to get Ito, to be real honest,” Herring said with a laugh. “Everybody counted me out, but I spoke to him [Friday]. He’s a real polite gentleman. Nothing but love and respect. If it makes sense, we can do it.”
Backstage after the fight, the graceful Herring handed the belt he had won back to Ito and bowed to the deposed champion. Herring will receive a belt to call his own from the WBO.