It would take a novel to detail all the obstacles Coram native Jamel Herring had to overcome, including two dangerous tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq, before embarking on a late-blooming boxing career in which he turned pro just over six years ago at 27. He was at a professional crossroads two years ago after losing two of three fights, prompting a move from Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions to Top Rank Promotions.
But Herring persisted through the adversity and is primed for his first world title shot against WBO super featherweight champion Masayuki Ito in Kissimmee, Florida, in the main event of an ESPN card that begins at 10 p.m. Saturday. Ito is a clear favorite, but Herring is in the best physical and mental condition of his life after moving down to 130 pounds and scoring three dominating wins under new trainer Brian McIntyre to earn this chance at age 33.
“I have not only tremendous trainers in the corner but a great nutritionist and a great strength coach,” Herring, a 2012 Olympian, told Newsday.. “I feel good. As long as I’ve got that combination, I’m really more confident going into this fight than I was maybe two years ago . . . I feel like I have more of a purpose.”
In three fights under McIntyre, Herring (19-2, 10 KOs) has scored a TKO and a pair of unanimous decisions without losing a single round. The team also includes nutritionist Paulina Indara and strength and conditioning coach Jamie Belt. And Herring’s biggest fan is WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who also trains with McIntyre and welcomed Herring as a member of their camp.
“Terence Crawford came to Florida with me the day that I left,” Herring said. “Usually, he may show up for the fight, but he’s been with me each and every day to make sure that I’m doing everything I need to be doing down here. That says a lot about him and his character as a champion outside of the ring.”
Herring is walking around at 133 pounds and expected no trouble making the 130-pound limit on Friday because of his work with Indara. “I’ve taken care of my body so well that it’s going to show,” Herring said. “Even at my age, I’m not struggling to make weight. I’m going to a lower weight class, but I feel good, I sound good, and I’m just full of energy. This camp has been going really well. The fight is going to be the fun part.
“This one’s for Long Island. I’ve got to bring it back to Long Island.”
Under McIntyre, Herring said he has become a much busier fighter, crediting his work rate for his three-bout winning streak. But Ito (25-1-1, 13 KOs) is a formidable champion.
“He’s a determined fighter, meaning that if you catch him with a few good shots, he’s determined to get it right back,” Herring said. “He loves measuring with his left hand, and he loves really making an impact with his right. He’s a good fighter, and I definitely can’t take him lightly.”
As fate would have it, their bout takes place on what would have been the 10th birthday of Herring’s daughter Ariyanah, who died of sudden infant death syndrome at the age of two months. Her presence in Herring’s head and heart is a source of inspiration.
“I don’t feel bad or down going into this fight,” he said. “I just believe it’s a sign and it’s a blessing. To present her with a birthday gift, why not do it by becoming a world champion?”