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Frampton vs Herring: Frampton’s Final Stand?

Carl Frampton boxing photo

By Rory Hickey: Carl Frampton (28-2 16 KO) is arguably the greatest boxer in the history of Ireland. He looks to become the first man of Irish descent to hold a world championship in three different weight classes on April 3rd when he challenges Jamel Herring (22-2, 10 KO) for his WBO super featherweight world title.

Standing at five feet, five inches tall with youthful good looks that defy his chosen profession, the Belfast native is not the most physically intimidating man to step foot in a boxing ring. The man known as “The Jackal” has achieved professional success by breaking his opponents down mentally with an impeccable boxing IQ and by utilizing slick punches targeting vulnerable areas with the precision of a dartsman.

Frampton’s incredible career includes a banner year in 2016 when he unified his 122-pound championship against Scott Quigg before moving up to 126 pounds and snatching a title from the previously unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz. Multiple publications named Carl Frampton as their 2016 Fighter of the Year.

Of course, that was five years ago now, and Carl Frampton recently turned 34 years old. Since his stellar 2016, he has lost twice in his seven bouts– once via close decision in a rematch with Santa Cruz a month into 2017 and a bit more decisively at the end of 2018 to Josh Warrington. Those are the only two blemishes on Carl Frampton’s professional record. Yet this bout against former US Marine Jamel Herring represents a likely crossroads in The Jackal’s career. This opportunity is almost certainly the best, if not last, chance for Frampton to become the isle of Ireland’s first three-division world champion.

Carl Frampton boxing photo

This title bout will be just the 31st of Frampton’s professional career. However, 125 amateur bouts prior to his pro debut in 2009, in addition to multiple hand fractures in recent years necessitating multiple surgeries (including a freak accident when a large concrete ornament in a hotel lobby accidentally struck his left hand in 2019), have the 34-year old all of a sudden seeming ancient in boxing years. His move up to 130 pounds at his advanced boxing age, combined with his recent hand issues, have planted seeds of doubt in even the most ardent Frampton fans.

In Frampton’s most recent fight, he earned a knockout victory with a picture-perfect body shot against the unheralded Darren Traynor. The Jackal’s 130-pound debut was tougher than expected, though, with Frampton absorbing harder punches and taking longer to dispatch Traynor than many anticipated. The performance naturally raises questions about how he matches up against a 130-pound champion in Jamel Herring.

Questions about Frampton’s viability against a top super featherweight feels similar to those that Óscar Valdez faced. Valdez was the featherweight champion before he moved up to 130 pounds and defeated Adam Lopez and Jayson Vèlez. His performances in those bouts left something to be desired, leading many to declare that Valdez had bitten off more than he could chew prior to his next fight against the dangerous WBC super featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt. However, on February 20th, Valdez pulled off the upset by knocking out Berchelt in a surprisingly dominant fashion to claim his fellow countryman’s WBC super featherweight championship. Carl Frampton is hoping his journey from 126 pounds to 130 pounds follows that same road and that he will join Valdez among the ranks of boxing’s current super featherweight champions.

Jamel Herring and Carl Frampton match up well in terms of boxing style as well as in their career trajectories, the veteran Frampton hoping to cement his legacy while the up-and-coming champion Herring looks to build his own. This will be a competitive matchup, as close to a 50-50 bout as we see in championship fights. The bookmakers have pegged Frampton as a small favorite at -140.

Carl Frampton boxing photo

Boxing fans have had this fight circled on their calendars for a while. Hopefully, they have been using a pencil, given the number of times the bout has been postponed and rescheduled. Discussions between the Herring and Frampton camps date as far back as June- but each man opted to take a different fight at that time. Both men were victorious in those bouts, and a Frampton-Herring fight date was originally slated for November 2020. That date had to be pushed back because of eye injuries suffered by Herring in his most recent fight in September, a victory via disqualification against Jonathan Oquendo.

COVID-19 issues prevented the rescheduled January 2021 bout from taking place. This fight was then set to take place on February 27th before Frampton injured his hand again during training, and doctors advised a postponement, which Herring’s camp agreed to. And so Frampton-Herring got moved, hopefully for the last time, to April 3rd. The championship bout now has a different location as well, moving from London to Dubai. No matter the location or the eventual date of Carl Frampton vs. Jamel Herring, once the gloves are laced up and the opening bell rings, all of the waiting and hand wringing will be worth it.

Jamel Herring got a late start in the fight game, turning professional at 27 years old. Prior to his pro debut, Herring served two tours of duty with the US Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one in Fallujah and the other in Al Taqaddum. He qualified for the US Olympic team in 2012 while still serving as an active duty Marine. He defeated Masayuki Ito in May 2019 to win the WBO super featherweight championship. His last two bouts have been successful title defenses against Lamont Roach and Jonathan Oquendo. One factor that could factor into the Herring-Frampton bout is location; while Herring is well-traveled, the same cannot be said of his pro boxing career. When he faces Carl Frampton in Dubai, it will be Herring’s first professional bout outside of the United States. Of course, the punches feel the same, and the ring is the same no matter what country the fight is in. But the element of international travel, with all the logistics and potential headaches that come with it, is just one more factor to deal with.

Getting into boxing at a more advanced age as Herring did could be either an advantage or a disadvantage; it depends on who you talk to. It’s undeniable that picking up the sport later in life means you have had less time to practice and spar and hone your craft. On the other hand, while a boxer who got a late start has thrown fewer punches in his boxing life, he has certainly taken fewer punches as well. The wear and tear on the body that comes with years of training and sparring and being hit are diminished if you aren’t spending as many years in the sport.

That contrast is evident in the lead-up to the Herring-Frampton contest. Once known for his health and sturdiness, Frampton has recently had issues with his hands that have led to his fights being delayed on multiple occasions. He stated in a recent interview with The Guardian that the intense training camps for a big fight “take years off of your life.” While Frampton has the edge in experience and championship fights, will his body be able to carry out the directives his mind gives it come fight night?

The Frampton-Herring fight is so intriguing, not just for the matchup itself, but what could come next for the winner. Whoever emerges with the WBO super featherweight championship will have a wealth of opportunity in front of them. The previously discussed Óscar Valdez said he is interested in facing the winner of Frampton-Herring in a step towards unifying the four super featherweight championships. 23-year old former US Olympian Shakur Stevenson, who many project to be the next pound-for-pound great, is 15-0 and clamoring for a big fight in this division. Frampton said he “has it on good authority” that Shakur Stevenson would come to Belfast to fight him if he beats Herring. Then there is WBA champion Gervonta Davis (24-0, 23 KO), who isn’t exactly clamoring for a big fight but is another option in this suddenly loaded super featherweight division.

For Frampton, though, his position in the 130-pound division is almost secondary. Winning a super featherweight championship would be the cherry on top of an amazing career. He is almost certainly a Hall of Famer, and becoming Ireland’s first three-division world champion would make his case unassailable. Now a father of two, Hall of Fame cases are the least of Frampton’s worries. That doesn’t mean that he has lost any of the competitive fire that has made him so successful all these years. Even in these uncertain times, Frampton can be sure that he will have all of Ireland behind him.




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