Its hard to label this weeks bout between WBO junior lightweight champion, Jamel Herring, and Shakur Stevenson a 'grudge match'. For the very simple reason why while the precocious challenger seems to be taking things a bit personal, here, Herring has no such animus.
Throughout the buildup for this event, which is set to take place this Saturday night at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, Stevenson has been more than a tad disrespectful towards the defending champion.
Photo Credit: Top Rank/Mikey Williams
What do they say about respecting your elders?
From the very beginning of this promotion, Stevenson has made it clear that they weren't really friends. (This was captured in episode 1 of 'Blood, Sweat and Tears' from Top Rank)
"That's probably the most surprising factor of this fight, the way he's basically voiced his opinion about me," Herring admitted to SNAC.com.
At the very least, Herring believed there was a mutual respect between the two, given that they had both spent time in camp with trainer Brian 'BoMac' McIntryre and welterweight champion, Terence Crawford.
"I think I was more in shock over the comments," said the 35 year old Herring, who recounts that both he and Stevenson were in Las Vegas last November to support Crawford inside 'the Bubble' as he faced Kell Brook. "There was no bad blood."
But even then, for the personable Herring it's still not personal. It's just boxing business.
"It just shows my maturity," he said this past weekend, ''because at the end of the day, on my end I don't see any real personal issues. It's not like I did anything behind his back, or went to the media and said anything about him. So I can't form any type of dislike, or as they say 'beef'. There's nothing to stand upon."
Much has been made about the fact that they have sparred in the past. But Herring downplays the experience pointing out that it took place in 2017 as he was serving as a sparring partner for Crawford as he was preparing to face southpaw Julius Indongo. They moved around several days later they went ''six or seven rounds,'' according to Herring.
But he points out, "This was even before I started training with 'BoMac'. So there's really not much I can go off of that because I know were two completely different fighters.
Photo Credit: Top Rank
It was around that time that Herring would drop a 10 round decision to Ladarius Miller, the second of two defeats in a three fight stretch. But since that point, after linking up with adviser, Jerry Casarez, and then signing with Top Rank, he has won seven consecutive fights. Which included a title winning effort versus Masayuki Ito, and then undefeated contender, Lamont Roach.
But last summer after coming off a bout of Covid (which he says greatly impacted his ability to perform that night), he struggled mightily in winning via disqualification against Jonathan Oquendo. In what was a rather sluggish effort, Herring was cut and swollen near his right eye after a clash of heads, The fight was waved off in round eight.
Herring took some harsh criticism, not just for his performance but the manner in which the fight ended. It was a win that felt very much like a loss.
"I just had to stay off of social media because I was getting hit left and right," said Herring, who has always enjoyed interacting with fans on Twitter. "But y'know, instead of crying and complaining about it -- I took it as motivation, I used it as fuel."
And as he went into his contest with Carl Frampton, he was a fighter that was doubted as he went over to Dubai in early April. Some believed that Herring simply didn't have the fortitude or grit to defeat the Irishmen, who had won world titles at 122 and 126. While many athletes deny reading what is said in the media, Herring admits he was very well aware of the opposing camp and his rabid fans were saying about him. But he never responded.
"I just took it in and used it as motivation. Of course I had a chip on my shoulder," he admits. "But that just brought out the best in me."
Herring dominated that contest from the opening bell, enforcing his advantages in size and reach, and floored Frampton in the fifth and sixth rounds, on his way to an emphatic sixth round TKO.
Coming into this contest, Herring is rated number one at 130 by Ring Magazine, while Stevenson comes in at five. Yet it is Stevenson who is the overwhelming favorite in this battle of two well-schooled southpaw stylists. While this is technically a neutral site for this bout (with Herring now residing in Cincinnati, and Stevenson a native of Newark) and both under the Top Rank banner, this is being set up as a coming out party for the 24 year old challenger.
Herring understands the situation, and he realizes that in a battle of boxers, the Marine has to turn this into a fire fight. He chuckles as you ask him about it.
"You know just as well I I know, I may be the one who has to push the issue for this fight because I always say Shakur is very sound. But it's one of those things, that if you let him do just enough, he's fine with that," explained Herring. "He's fine with just taking the round with just the bare minimum, at times.
"So if you want to make a statement, I feel I will have to go out there and press the fight, and maybe make him uncomfortable, at times, to make the fight."
No more Mr. Nice Guy on Saturday night. The goal is to rough up the talented Stevenson, get him out of his comfort zone, press the pace from the very onset.
Herring states, "Those are the things we worked on in camp. We already had it in mind, I'm sure they had that in mind, as well. So it's not something that I'm worried about doing because it's something that we worked on all camp. He's a good boxer, and I've always said if you let him sit back and do what he wants to do, he'll just pick you apart, and that's it.
Also on this bill from Atlanta is Evan Holyfield (the son of 'the Real Deal'), Nico Ali Walsh and Xander Zayas... The ESPN broadcast begins at 10 pm, ET/7:30 PT.....DAZN and Matchroom Sports have announced that Dillian Whyte(out) has been scratched from his October 30 appointment versus Otto Walli with a shoulder ailment....Mike Coppinger of ESPN is reporting that the bout between unified lightweight champion, Teofimo Lopez, and George Kambosos will take place on November 27 at the Hulu Theater in New York....How great was the season opener of 'Succession' on HBO? Logan Roy is my idol.....I can be reached at email@example.com....