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Who is Jamel Herring? The heart-wrenching story of ex-US Marine's journey to world title as he prepares to face Carl Frampton in Belfast

Jamel Herring (right) has had a dramatic journey to the world title and is expected to be Carl Frampton's next opponent.
Jamel Herring (right) has had a dramatic journey to the world title and is expected to be Carl Frampton's next opponent.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

A look at Jamel Herring's boxing record does little to shine a light into either the boxer or the man.

The American is all but certain to arrive in Belfast next year as Carl Frampton's opponent in potentially historic world title fight as the Jackal attempts to become the first fighter from the island of Ireland to be crowned a three-weight world champion.

But any look into Herring's path to the WBO Super Featherweight title will be unavoidably focused much more outside than inside the ring.

So just who is the man standing in Frampton's way?

Who is Jamal Herring?

Age: 34 (16 months Frampton's senior)

Height: 5'10 (five inches taller than Frampton)

Reach: 70 inches (eight inches more than Carl)

Professional record: 21 victories (10 KOs) / two defeats (one KO)

The US Marine: Herring's story starts in Coram, a hamlet of 40,000 in New York. After being dropped from his school basketball team for poor grades, he was just trying to avoid a life of drugs or worse until best friend Stephen Brown stepped in, seeing the potential for more. On Brown's urging, Herring joined the US Marines and was dispatched to Iraq by the time he was 20. He served two tours and reached the rank of Sergeant but carries with him the ghosts of war. "Incoming fire from mortar rounds, one after another - just basically making it to the next day was a blessing," he told ESPN.

Family tragedy: The trauma from his service, however, is not alone in forming the heart-wrenching story of Herring's journey. Just when it seemed like life was good, with Herring's amateur boxing career for the Marine Corps allowing him to stay in the US with his growing family, his world was turned upside down. His daughter Ariyanah, aged just two months, passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,  a tragedy for which he couldn't help blaming himself. Added to the death from cancer in 2004 of his best friend Brown, whom he credits with turning his life around, it's little wonder Jamel suffered from paranoia and mood swings in recent years, eventually seeking help from therapists.

In the ring: So it's through the lense of that life that Herring's up-and-down boxing record must be viewed. As an amateur, he won the 2011 and 2012 Armed Forces Championships as well as the 2011 US Olympic Trials and the 2012 US Nationals. As a result, he led the US team as captain in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, poignantly three years to the day since the passing of Ariyanah. Although he lost to would-be 2016 Olympic champion Daniyar Yeleussinov in London, Herring turned professional later that year. His opening 19 fights didn't land a title shot, and there were defeats in 2016 and 2017 as he battled for a route to the top.

The drop in weight: It was only last year that Herring dropped from lightweight to the 130lbs bracket as he looked for a chance to land a world title. It was a decision that soon paid dividends, as he defeated John Vincent Moralde in September 2018 to claim the vacant United States Boxing Association Super Featherweight title. That was to pave the way for a world title shot in May 2019, when he dethroned WBO champ Masayuki Ito, who had been attempting his second defence. Herring held on to the belt by beating Lamont Roach by unanimous decision on November 9 and now has his eyes on two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.

On top at last: Herring, by his own admission, is only now where he always dreamed of being. Unsurprisingly, it's all with one person in particular in mind - Ariyanah. "Even now when you see me fight, I always have her name on my trunks. Everything I do right now is in her honor. That's how I look at it," he told ESPN.

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