If Mexian boxer Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fighting on Cinco de Mayo makes sense, so does Jamel Herring fighting on Veterans Day Weekend.
“Canelo has all the Mexican holidays, and as a U.S veteran I’m here to represent all the American holidays,” Herring told The Post this week. “That’s a blessing because it keeps me humble and hungry. When it’s all said and done, I’m not only representing myself, but I’m representing my country, as well.”
Actually, Herring represents a lot of different aspects of life, from triumph to tragedy. It makes him easy to root for when the Long Island native makes his first defense of the WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night against Lamont Roach Jr. in Fresno, Calif. The fight will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Herring (20-2, 10 KOs) enlisted in the Marines in 2003 and served two tours of duty in Iraq. He joined the All-Marine Boxing Team in 2006 and became good enough to be the only Marine to compete in the 2012 London Olympics and the first active duty Marine to qualify for the U.S. Boxing team since 1992. His leadership skills were admired to the point at which he was named team captain.
Herring, who turned 34 in October, then fulfilled his life-long dream by capturing his first world title in May, defeating defending champion and betting favorite Masayuki Ito of Japan by unanimous decision.
“When the fight was announced, there were a lot of doubters that motivated me to perform to the best of my ability,” Herring said. “I believe I showed I belong with the rest of the champions in my division.”
Congratulations poured in from veterans across the country for Herring.
“The love has been overwhelming,” he said. “The veterans feel like it’s great to see one of their own at the top of the mountain right now.”
But that’s not all Herring is about. Check out the bio on his Instagram page: “Went to war overseas, lost a child, suffered from PTSD, clinical depression, and a parent of autistic children. An opponent across the ring is the least of my worries. Boxing is therapeutic.”
When Herring visits VA hospitals, children’s hospitals and military bases, his story has more to do with coping with life than boxing. Becoming a world champion with a shiny belt has attracted more listeners.
“I believe that’s been the greatest asset of being a world champion,” Herring said. “For me, it’s not about the flash and the money and fame. To me, it’s about using this opportunity and platform to get my message across and hopefully touch other lives as well. I’ve always believed that at the end of the day, when boxing is all said and done, people aren’t going to care how much money you made in the sport. They’re going to look back and reflect on the person you are and how you affected their lives.”
Herring’s career has blossomed since he signed with Top Rank and joined forces with trainer Brian McIntyre and his stable in Omaha, Neb., that includes welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford.
“That plays a huge influence,” Herring said. “When one of your peers is considered No. 1 or No. 2 pound-for-pound in the world, it’s overwhelming for your mentality. Bud doesn’t have an ego. Bud wants me to be on that same level as himself and wants to see me succeed.”
At least 300 uniformed Marines will be in attendance, some standing at attention, forming a pathway for Herring’s ring walk to face Roach (19-0-1, 7 KOs) of Upper Marlboro, Md.
“When you have that type of support and energy behind you, it just takes you to a whole different level,” Herring said.