(Photo Credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank)
Boxing has had its fair share of characters. (You can easily name three from memory.) The annals for the “Sweet Science” are littered with distinctive fighter personalities, odd characteristic traits or of riveting origins. But every once in a while, a fighter comes along with a back story so compelling, so heartbreaking as it is inspiring, it transcends normal levels of win-loss fandom. You root for them in all aspects of life. This is Jamel Herrings story.
Jamel Herring, 33 years old, entered this past Saturdays Super Featherweight WBO Championship Bout against champion Masayuki Ito on ESPN, inexperienced in title fights, but real-life battle tested. Raised in Coram, NY, where kids selling or using drugs is the norm. Jamel was a gifted athlete in high school but a poor academic student, he needed a way out. After relentless pressure from his closest friend, he found it in the form of the US Marine Corps.
Jamel is a veteran of two tours in Iraq as a Machine Gun Gunner. (The guy who sits atop Humvees.) Enemy snipers’ prime targets. “They are the first ones to get action and shot at” says active 0811 Field Artillery Marine Joel Alvarado. “They are also in danger if the vehicle flips and have the main responsibility to not fire at the wrong people while avoiding snipers.” On a routine patrol, Jamel witnessed a fellow female Marine sniped down during her smoke break. A loss that still resonates with him as well as “countless” other soldier lives lost due to mortar rounds on vehicles or enemy fire. While surviving in Iraq, his girlfriend back home delivered his second son. A birth he missed. He was not missing the next.
Daughter Ariyanah was born on Memorial Day May 25th 2009. As any father can attest, the birth of your princess is a jubilant high point in life! For Jamel, that feeling was short lived. Baby girl Ariyanah passed away just two months later from S.I.D. (Sudden Infant Death syndrome). Any parents worst fear is burying your own children. The emotional scarring understandably sent Jamel into a form of depression. He admittedly “disappeared”. Heavy drinking and a lack of training created moody outbursts. This was rock bottom.
Fortunately for Jamel, his family had a great support system in place. Coupled that with a “Fighters Mentality” he slowly dug out of the mental black hole. Training resumed. Competition levels increased. Soon he was fighting for military boxing titles and amateur national accolades. Three years to the day of his daughters’ death, Jamel walked out as chosen captain for the US Boxing Squad at the 2012 London Olympics!
Before turning pro, Jamel had to finish his military duty. Upon completion he signed with powerful boxing advisor Al Haymon. With such a powerful alliance, title shots, fame and compensation were a matter of “when” not “if”. They never came. For whatever the reason, poor trainer, poor management poor promotion, the Jamel/Haymon project never paid dividends. A respectable 16 wins with 2 losses to show for. Sensing a change was needed Jamel cleaned house and linked up with Terrance Crawfords crew. (You may of heard of him.) New trainer and manager Buddy “BoMac” McIntyre severed ties with Al Haymon and signed Jamel with Top Rank. THE premier boxing promotional company in the world ran by Bob Arum and backed by ESPN!
After three straight wins, Uncle Bob, as he is affectionately known around boxing circles, positioned Jamel for his first title shot. Only one problem: his opponent was coming in with hot momentum! The Champion Masayuki Ito was a 2-1 favorite on most betting sites. Winning the vacant title over previously undefeated and highly touted Puerto Rican Christopher Diaz. Many were already looking ahead to an Ito unification bout with Mexican WBC Champ, Miguel “Alacran” Berchelt. Who just happened to be sitting ringside.
Once again Jamel was up against it, and once again Jamel rose to the occasion! Over 500 active or reserve Marines were in attendance for his fight. Jamel boxed masterfully for 12 rounds with his deceased daughters name engraved in his trunks. The match was a give and take affair that left a sold out crowd of just under 3,000 at Osceola Heritage Park in Orlando, Florida satisfied! The judges rightfully awarded Jamel Herring (20-2 10 KO’s) a unanimous decision score of 118-110 X2 and 116-112 over Masayuki Ito (25-2-1 13 KO’s). “I want to dedicate this fight to my daughter Ariyanah who passed away from S.I.D.” a tearful
Jamel Herring stated to ESPN. “ Tonight would have been her 10th birthday. “
Every so often a boxer arrives with a backstory so captivating it has to be told and re told. Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring, a highly decorated Marine with nine years of service earning the rank of Sergeant, won his first boxing title on Memorial Day weekend on the birthday of his deceased daughter. Mr. Herring, I stand and salute you!
Article Written By
Manuel " Hopper" Dominguez