His stablemates Robert ‘Bunny’ Easter Jr. and Rau’Shee ‘Nuke’ Warren command the guaranteed televised slots on the evening, but that hasn’t prevented Jamel Herring from planning to steal show on February 10. Given the massive struggles in finding a willing opponent for the event, it’s clear that a statement-making performance is the only way to go.
The decorated two-tour Iraqi war veteran and 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain for now is set to face lightweight gatekeeper Art Hovhannisyan at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio. The bout may or may not make it on air during the 2017 season premiere of PBC: The Next Round on Bounce TV, but Herring plans to fight as if all eyes are on him.
He carries that mindset because he wants to make sure all eyes are on his career once he makes his next move.
“I’m going into this fight coming off of a LOSS and still nobody wanted to fight me,” Herring (15-1, 8KOs) told FightNights.com. “So now I have to make sure that I generate enough attention where I guess these guys figure I’m worth the risk.”
The bout marks the first ring appearance for Herring since the lone defeat of his career, as he was stopped in ten rounds by Denis Shafikov last July. At least four other opponents were offered the opportunity to face the Long Island-bred, Cincinnati-based lightweight before securing the services of Hovhannisyan (17-3-3, 9KOs).
It was bout made as a matter of convenience, as Hovhannisyan was already due to appear on the undercard versus Raynell Williams (11-0, 5KOs), who served on the 2008 U.S. Olympic boxing team in Beijing but who failed to qualify for the 2012 squad. Williams - who trains with Herring, Easter and Warren when the team relocates from Ohio to Washington D.C. - will now face TBA on the non-televised undercard of the show, as it was decided that Hovhannisyan was a better fit for Herring, thus allowing all three boxers to remain on the card.
Providing this selection stands pat, it ends what has been more than a two-month search with offers extended to Miguel Vasquez, Argenis Mendez, Ivan Redkach and Bahodir Mamadjonov among others.
“So far we've adjusted camp to train for taller fighters, shorter fighters, right-hand punchers, left-handed boxers,” Herring quipped. “I never care about who I fight. Training for a particular style, though, becomes a challenge when you don't know the opponent.
“I do want to thank Art Hovhannisyan for accepting the fight. As long as it sticks, it helps put my mind at ease knowing that we don't have to keep looking for someone.”
In the main event, Easter Jr. (18-0, 14KOs) - born and raised in Toledo - makes the first defense of his lightweight title versus Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz. The bout is his first since claiming the vacant belt in a split decision win over Richard Commey in their 12-round thriller last September live on Spike TV in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The televised co-feature pits Cincinnati's Warren (14-1. 4KOs) in his maiden bantamweight title defense versus Kazakhstan's Zhanat Zhakiyanov (26-1, 18KOs). Warren won his crown in a 12-round nod over Juan Carlos Payano in their NBC-televised rematch last June in Chicago.
As each of the aforementioned contests are world title bouts slated for12 rounds apiece, it’s doubtful that Herring finds his way to a budgeted two-hour telecast unless either (or both) end much earlier than expected. Either way, there’s plenty of boxing ahead in 2017, and plenty of time for the 31-year old to leave a lasting impression.
”2016 definitely wasn’t my favorite year, personally, but I at least got to see ‘Bunny’ and ‘Nuke’ win their first world titles, so it was a good year for our team,” notes Herring in his best effort to find a silver lining amidst a year to forget. “February 10 is my first step in that direction. Not my first step back – a loss doesn’t knock you off, it’s simply a learning lesson to do things better in the future.
“We took stock of what went down that night (versus Shafikov) and that’s now in the past where it belongs. Now that we got an opponent, that’s where my focus is at. A win here – a big win, since I have to do that in order to get these (lightweights) to look my way – puts me one step closer to putting a belt around my waist in 2017.”