The United States of America, the home of the brave and the land of the free. On this small planet that we all inhabit there is not a prouder nation upon it. A country who’s citizens are fanatical about being American. As a nation born through war, its people celebrate their veterans past and present. Through wars of independence against the Red Coat Army loyal to Britain or the American Civil war this proud nation in its infancy was built on the sacrifices of its brave young men.
In recent times we have seen on TV the men and woman of US and Coalition Forces go off to fight in an impossible war against an invisible enemy in places likened to hell. We watched on TV as these young men leave behind their families and go to a places where they are expected to risk their lives on a daily basis. We seen on TV the absolute devastation left by a roadside bombs targeting these men and woman…..WE seen on TV whilst THEY lived through it.
Jamel Herring was raised in the Hamlet of Coram, New York. A place which looks picturesque on a Google search but like most places in todays world you don’t have to try to hard to find that “street life” is usually thriving off of human vices away from the cameras. Jamel explained how he steered clear of falling into the “Life”.
“Coram was a crazy place live at times and then it could be so peaceful. I seen a lot of my friends getting caught up doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing , especially at a really young age. Me? I found sports to keep me busy and away from that kind of life”
Jamel happily admits that boxing was never his first love. Like so many youngsters in the US there is only one sport for them and that’s American Football.
“When i got started in sport it was playing football in high school, that was the sport that sent me on my way to being an athlete and doing things of that nature. It was years later before I laced up a set of boxing gloves, I was like 15 or 16 years old”
The New Yorker may have been late coming into boxing but he was eager to make up for lost time. After just a year in the sport a young Jamel picked up his first amateur loss to future middleweight world champion Danny Jacobs during the New York Junior Olympic Finals in 2002.
In the 2003 the World was on the verge of War again. It was plain to see that no diplomatic solution would be reached between the US and the Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Government. Jamel Herring was Graduating from school whilst his country was gearing up for war. Like so many of us at that time in our lives Herring felt lost in what to do in life until his friend Suggested he enlist in the military and do something with his life and that’s exactly what he did.
“I went and joined the marine corp coming straight out of school. I was still only 17 years old, in fact i spent my 18th Birthday in bootcamp. Once I started my military career I thought that I wouldn’t have had time for boxing. Boxing was a bit stop start for the next few years…..soldier first, boxer second”
In 2005 the young Marine was sent on his first tour of war torn Iraq after being deployed in the infamous Iraqi City of Fallujah. Now working with a Recon Unit as an electrician who’s job it was to seek out insurgents tasked with planting IEDs and Roadside bombs . For those of us old enough to remember, Fallujah was a place we seen on the news daily. Renowned as one of the most dangerous places in the world at the time, Jamel said to me in as serious a tone that only a military man could “Being in Iraq in a time of war really took my mind away from boxing”. Once home from Iraq Jamel admitted he had a new found appreciation of American values and way of life.
In all Jamel did two tours in Iraq firstly in 2005 and then again in 2007 but on his second tour things had changed, Jamel had become a father and with parenthood comes responsibilities, for a soldier that is staying alive.
Herring did have success in the ring between tours of Iraq but he admits his mind was always on the job he had to do in the Middle East and getting home safely to his family. The war veteran explained that being in the Marine Corp in a time of war means your mind is solely focussed on doing a job which meant “Boxing was always in my heart but it had to take a back seat”. He admits that there was a time when he thought he would never be able to get back into the boxing the way he would have wanted but that was all going change.
Coming back from a war zone to civilisation is often one of the hardest things any soldier will do. From being on a constant level of high alert then walking right back into your life back home. When the then 22 year old came back after his second tour he explained how still being in the military, and their boxing team helped him resettle and get back into the life he had left behind.
“It took a while , a really long time. It wasn’t easy but i was determined. I was determined to get back into boxing. I concentrated on being the best fighter I could be in the boxing team because the better you are on the team the better the chances of you sticking around and that’s what i needed in my life at that time”
Due to his Military career The New Yorker had always felt like he was playing catch up in the ring and that he could never really have a good run at boxing that way he always wanted to, but in the next couple of years that all changed. Refocussed on boxing Jamel says “I started studying the amateur system a lot more than i ever had before and that helped Me a lot in the ring, it wasn’t long before i started moving up the rankings” and after winning Gold at the 2012 Olympic trials Jamel was going to the London Olympics, the first Marine Corps boxer to do so since 1992.
On 27th July 2012 the opening ceremony for the London Olympic Games got underway. This is the day that every athlete at any Olympic Games looks forward to, a ceremony that celebrates the achievements of every athlete of just making it there, which will be the pinochle of so many’s career. The now father of four had fought for his country on the battlefield, now he would do so in the ring on the world stage, but the opening ceremony was a day of mixed emotions for Jamel. On the 27th July 2009 Jamel’s partner found their young daughter Ariyanah who was in bed wasn’t breathing, and although Doctors tried they couldn’t save the two month old child. The cause of death was later determined as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). During our interview i made a conscious decision not to ask Jamel about this as a token of respect as the tragedy is already well documented. On that night of the opening ceremony Jamel said he looked up to the sky and said “Baby Girl I made it”
London 2012 is remembered as one of the great Olympic Games and Jamel felt right at home in the UK.
“I’m from New York so coming to London it was like a home away from for me. Once i was over in London i quickly adapted to the people and made some really good friends some of whom I am still close to.”
The Olympian said He didn’t fair to well in the olympic games but he felt he had done himself and the Marine Corp proud. Jamel had loved his time in London and had made some good friends through the sport.
“I would love to go back to the UK one day to entertain the people over there. I’m friends with Josh Taylor and i am really happy with what he’s doing for himself in the sport. People need to remember boxing is like a fraternity. What i mean by that is that its a very small community so Josh is still a good friend of mine and he just fought another good friend of mine Ryan Martin”
Coming home from the Olympic games the American made one of the hardest decisions of his life when he decided to leave the Marine Corp and pursue his dream of becoming a Professional Boxer. Now with a record of 18-2-0 10KO picked up USBA Super Featherweight Title in his last fight with a points win over John Vincent Moralde Jamel should soon be world ranked with the IBF.
There is a saying used by Marines “My time in uniform maybe over, but being a Marine never ends” now adopting the alias “Semper Fi” which is a Marine Corp motto, Herring is a proud example of that.
“I love this sport. I still support the amateur system to this day. I’m doing really well right now in the pro game but my main goal has alway been to represent the Marine Corp to the best of my ability and with pride. Whether that was in the amateurs or now as a pro, that gives me enjoyment and i hope it gives the Corp”
Now promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank “Semper Fi” has said in 2019 He will have a decision to make. He can wait for his shot at the IBF or he does have the option to go the WBO route, Jamel says one thing is for sure though.
“In 2019 i WILL be fighting for a world title of that i have no doubt. I will be a world champion. Not only that i will want to unify the division as well. Some guys today get a title and have no interest in Unifying but not me though, I want to be a unified world champion”
*Jamel Herring is fighting again on 14th December in Texas