Newly crowned World Boxing Organization (WBO) super featherweight champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring has been a fighter practically all his life as a U.S. Marine and elite boxer.
The 33-year-old Herring (20-2, 10 KOs), fighting out of Cincinnati, has come full circle since he started boxing at the age of 15. “I started because I was doing poorly in school, cut from the basketball team,” he explained on why he chose the Sweet Science. “I didn’t want to be in the streets. It was not my character, so I had to find something else to do. A friend introduced me to boxing and I stuck with it. I eventually got my grades back up and made high honor roll.”
Herring also developed into an Olympic boxer, mostly while he was serving nine years in the U.S. Marines, and even when he was deployed twice in Iraq. He compiled an 81-15 amateur record, including top honors at the 2011 & 2012 Armed Forces Championships, 2011 U.S. Olympic Trials and 2012 US Nationals gold medalist, along with a silver medal at the 2010 World Military Games. He was the first active duty U.S. Marine to qualify for the US Boxing Team since 1992, as well as the first U.S. Marine to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
“I boxed a little during my second deployment during free time,” he noted. “I came back from my second deployment toward the end of 2007 and began boxing for the Marine Corps in 2008. Most of my amateur career came under the Marine Corps. I learned a lot traveling with the Marine Corps. I got to see more styles and competed in national tournaments as a Marine. They also had the funding to send me.”
The highlight of his amateur career was representing his country at the 2012 Olympics in London as captain of Team USA. Although he lost (19-9) in the opening round to two-time Kazakh boxer Daniyar Yeleussinov, who won gold at the 2013 World Championships and later at the 2016 Olympics, the opening Olympic ceremonies was the most memorable moment of his entire amateur boxing career for a special reason.
“That was the anniversary of my daughter’s passing,” Herring said. “It let me know that no matter what, you can still accomplish anything, even through ups and downs.”
Other members of the 2012 USA Olympic Team Herring captained included present day world champions in the pro ranks such as Errol Spence, Jr., Claressa Shields and Marcus Browne, former world champion Rau’Shee Warren, and world title challengers Terrell Gausha, Michael Hunter and Dominic Breazeale.
Herring remains close to USA Boxing, saying: “USA Boxing helped me because of the relationships I created, many of which still remain today. I met other fighters from around the world that I kept good relationships with. It also helped me become more of the people-person I am today. Being team captain taught me patience, because I had to deal with a lot of personalities, I still use those traits today. And I’m still close to my Olympic teammates today.”
“Jamel is the perfect example of resiliency and persistence,” mentioned Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. “His hard work, sacrifice, and inability to quit no matter what obstacles he encounters will continue to inspire the next generation of champions for many years. The USA Boxing Alumni Association wants to thank him for all that he has given to others, both in and out of the ring.”
Nothing has ever come easy for Jamel Herring, especially his remarkable turnaround after the tragic loss of his infant daughter, Ariyanah, which happened three years to the day prior to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
“My road wasn’t easy,” Herring added, “I had my ups and downs. I’m an Olympian, but nothing was ever handed to me. I had to fight for everything I’ve gotten. This is my time!”
It certainly is, particularly after he defeated defending WBO super featherweight champion Masayuki Ito, this past May 25, to become world champion. Proof that good things do indeed happen to good people.