By Matt Lieberman: WBO super featherweight champion Jamel Herring and #1 WBO contender Shakur Stevenson are reportedly in advanced talks for a fight in late 2021 that will be shown on ESPN. The fight could take place in Atlanta.
During his career, the Newark, New Jersey native Stevenson has mostly been fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada. But by staging the Stevenson vs.
Herring fight in Atlanta, Top Rank would be hoping to take advantage of the huge crowds that three-division world champion Gerovnta ‘Tank’ Davis has drawn in that city.
Mike Coppinger reports the negotiations between the two Top Rank fighters Herring (23-2, 11 KOs), and the unbeaten 2016 Olympic silver medalist Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs).
This isn’t a fight that the 35-year-old Herring wanted, though, as he hoped to face WBC 130-lb champion Oscar Valdez in a unification fight. It’ not that Herring wanted to avoid the recently turned 24-year-old Shakur Stevenson.
It was more of a case of the fight with Valdez being a lot bigger and likely worth more money for Herring.
While Shakur is a great talent, he doesn’t have much of a fanbase yet because of youth and his finesse-oriented, safety-first fighting style. Stevenson has a growing reputation for avoiding risks at all costs during his fight, which leaves open to being criticized for being “boring” to watch for fans.
The 5’10” Herring is coming off one of the biggest wins of his nine-year professional career in stopping former two-division world champion Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton in the sixth round on April 3rd in Dubai.
This was an excellent performance by the U.S Marine Herring, who used his huge height and reach advantage to drop the 5’5″ Frampton in rounds five and six.
In contrast, Stevenson recently defeated #2 Jeremiah Nakathila by a 12 round unanimous decision on June 12th. Although Shakur won the fight by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision, it was a dull performance by him.
Boxing fans wanted to see Stevenson take the fight to Nakathila to score a knockout, but he chose to move around the ring and box him.
After the fight was over, Stevenson admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable exchanging with the heavy-handed Nakathilia after he was by some hard shots.
“You can hear it in my voice, I’m not really stressing about this fight,” Herring said to ESPN. “I know people said I would avoid the fight because I wanted to fight Oscar Valdez. I just felt in my heart a fight with Oscar Valdez is bigger for my career.
“It would have been a unification and for the lineal title, so why would I not push for that fight? If I have to go through Shakur to get this fight, so be it. He’s a superb boxer, but I’ve been through worse.”
Well, obviously, Stevenson vs. Herring is a fight that Top Rank promoter Bob Arum wants. It makes sense for Arum to make the fight between Shakur and Herring because it will help make Stevenson a bigger name.
Stevenson needs to beat a quality fighter like Herring to help his popularity. If Arum had let Herring fight WBC 130-lb champion Oscar Valdez, he likely would have lost the fight.
What we don’t know is if Arum wants to Valdez in with Stevenson. It doesn’t help Arum’s bottom line if Valdez loses that fight to Stevenson. Valdez is the bigger draw and the one with the most potential for making money.
If Arum had let Herring fight Valdez, then he would be forced to make the fight between the winner of that contest with Stevenson. Well, if Valdez wins, Arum would be stuck potentially losing him as a start if he were to get beaten by Shakur.
Arum should let Valdez defend his WBC title against challengers and keep him away from the less popular Stevenson.
Herring has turned his career around since losing to Denis Shafikov and Ladarius Miller in 2016 and 2017. Since the loss to Miller, Herring has won his last seven fights and turned his career completely around.
In 2019, Herring defeated Masayuki Ito by a 12 round unanimous decision to win the WBO 130-lb title. Since capturing the WBO super featherweight title, Herring has successfully defended it three times, beating Frampton, Jonathan Oquendo, and Lamont Roach.
“I go fight Jamel Herring next and go beat him and then go beat Oscar Valdez,” said Stevenson. “They’ll be saying I’m the best young fighter and put me on the pound-for-pound list.”
I wouldn’t be so sure about Shakur getting a fight against Oscar Valdez if he wins against Herring. But if he does get the fight with Valdez, that will be a tough fight for him to win.
Valdez has far better offensive skills than Shakur, and he could get knocked out by him.
The way that Stevenson used movement to evade Nakathalia, he’ll have a difficult time winning a decision against Valdez. But if Shakur stands and fights Valdez, he’ll be overmatched in the power department.
Shakur is keenly aware of his reputation for being a boring fighter. However, he says that Floyd Mayweather Jr used to be considered a bring fighter earlier in his career, and he became a big star.
Mayweather was actually an exciting fighter earlier in his career. When Mayweather moved up to 147, it wasn’t until later that he became boring to watch and became an acquired taste for fans.
Stevenson is nothing like the young Mayweather with his fighting style. If anything, Stevenson is more like the older Mayweather in his late 30s, when he became almost unwatchable.