Junior lightweight world titlist Jamel Herring, a Marine veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, won his belt in May on Memorial Day weekend.
In his first defense, Herring retained the belt on another weekend very meaningful to him: Veterans Day and the Marine Corps’ birthday, as he outpointed mandatory challenger Lamont Roach Jr. before a crowd of 7,412 in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday night at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California.
Herring, a southpaw, who outpointed Masayuki Ito to win his 130-pound world title on May 25, survived major trouble in the 11th round and hung on to win 117-111, 117-111 and 115-113.
“I won it on Memorial Day weekend, and I defended it on Veterans Day weekend, so it definitely means a lot to all of our troops out there defending our country (that are) still in harm’s way,” Herring said. “This is for you all. I couldn’t come lose it on our weekend.”
He nearly did when Roach badly rocked him in the 11th round.
“It was a good shot,” Herring said. “I thought I had my hand up, but Lamont cuffed it behind it. It was a clean shot. I had to toughen up and fight it out. I couldn’t go down in front of all my Marines.”
Herring bemoaned his lack of activity in the first half of the fight.
“He’s tall, awkward and lanky, very elusive,” Roach said. “When I was throwing my hands, it wasn’t that hard to hit him. I think if I threw more earlier, I would have knocked him out.”
Herring (21-2, 10 KOs), 34, a 2012 U.S. Olympian from Coram, New York, who earned $300,000 to Roach’s $100,000, was busy with his jab and body attack; Roach, a counterpuncher at heart, continually looked for openings that rarely came. He barely threw any punches through the first half of the fight while Herring dictated the fight from the outside.
Roach (19-1-1, 7 KOs), 24, of Washington, D.C., rattled Herring with a counter right hand in the seventh round, but shots like that were few and far between. After the round, assistant trainer Joel Diaz was all over Roach, screaming at him that the way he was fighting was not what they had trained for.
Roach had another good round in the eighth. He caught Herring with a right hand and left hook behind it that landed solidly. Another hook later in the round knocked Herring off balance.
Herring landed a right hand across the face in the ninth round that knocked Roach down, but referee Marcos Rosales inexplicably called it a slip even though replays showed a punch landed. California does not employ the use of instant replay.
Early in the 11th round, Roach rocked Herring with a left hook on the chin but did not follow up to see how badly he was hurt. But in the final seconds of the round, he nailed Herring with a right hand that badly rocked him, but the round ended before Roach could land another shot.
“What was going through my mind was, ‘I got to get him out of here,'” said Roach, who was in his first 12-round bout. “We knew we had to dig down. When I hurt him, all that was on my mind was finishing him because I’m coming into uncharted territory.
“I thought 117-111 was a tad bit wide. The fight was close to me. We put on a good show. I’ll be back.”
According to CompuBox, Herring landed 143 of 665 punches (22%) and Roach connected with 84 of 403 (21%).
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN that Herring could return for his second defense on Feb. 1 in Haikou, China, in the co-feature of unified junior welterweight titlist Jose Ramirez’s mandatory challenger Viktor Postol.
Although Herring, who trained alongside welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford, probably won’t get a title unification fight if he fights Feb. 1, he wants one. He said he is up for fighting Top Rank stablemate Miguel Berchelt or Andrew Cancio, who is with Roach promoter Golden Boy.
“Miguel Berchelt is considered No. 1 in the world (at 130 pounds), and in order to be the best, you have to keep testing yourself,” Herring said. “I know Andrew Cancio is calling for unification fight. I know (former two-division titlist) Carl Frampton wants to step up, but he has a tough fight with my boy Tyler McCreary (on Nov. 30).”
Pulev routs Booker
Bulgarian heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev cruised to a one-sided decision win over Rydell Booker in the co-feature to maintain his position as the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Dec. 7 rematch between unified world titlist Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua. Pulev, in his first fight in eight months, won 99-91, 98-92 and 98-92.
“I controlled all the fight, and I was the much better boxer,” Pulev said. “I am different level. Respect for my opponent, but I was really good and I showed everybody that this is world level and I must fight the (Ruiz-Joshua II) winner.”
Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), 38, who lost his first shot at a world title by knockout to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, dominated Booker (26-3, 13 KOs), 38, of Detroit, with his steady, crisp left jab. By the second round, Booker’s right eye was swelling thanks to the steady jab Pulev kept in his face.
Booker did not appear in good condition. He languished for long stretches on the ropes and covered up as Pulev fired jabs and right hands — and made it look easy. Pulev had a big seventh round, landing several right hands that bothered a fading Booker, who was game but didn’t have the conditioning to throw enough punches to do anything to stop Pulev from going right at him.
Pulev, who won his eighth fight in a row since the loss to Klitschko, fought at a methodical pace, rarely went to Booker’s wide-open body and never stepped on the gas in an effort to get a knockout although he won easily. According to CompuBox, Pulev landed 163 of 690 punches (24%) and Booker landed just 69 of 289 (24%).
Pulev was fighting for the first time since a seventh-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu on March 23, after which he was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for kissing a female reporter on the lips without her consent.
Featherweight Robeisy Ramirez (1-1, 1 KO), 25, who won 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medals for Cuba, dominated Fernando Ibarra (2-2, 0 KOs), 19, of Fairfield, California, in a sixth-round knockout victory to rebound from a nightmarish pro debut loss on Aug. 10.
In his pro debut, Ramirez — a southpaw, who defected and fights out of Gulfport, Florida — got knocked down in the first round and shockingly lost a four-round split decision to Adan Gonzales in a massive upset.
Ramirez then parted ways with trainer Rob Mendez and hired Ismael Salas, a former Cuban national team coach now among the top pro trainers, who led him into his ring return.
“I have a new trainer, Ismael Salas, and we worked hard in the gym together,” Ramirez said. “What happened in my pro debut is in the past. I am looking forward to a bright future.”
Ramirez looked sharp, dominating with quick combinations and straight left hands. He also hammered Ibarra to the body, including several body blows during a sixth-round onslaught that dropped him and caused referee Gerard White to stop the bout at 1 minute, 37 seconds.
Also on the undercard
• Middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly (8-0, 3 KOs), 26, a 2016 Kazakhstan Olympian fighting out of Oxnard, California, retained two regional belts by one-sided, sixth-round knockout of Albert Onolunose (24-3-1, 8 KOs), 39, of Calgary. Alimkhanuly, who is trained by Buddy McGirt, punished Onolunose before dropping him with a steady diet of hard shots to the head and body in the sixth round. He beat the count, but when Alimkhanuly continued to pound him during the follow-up attack, referee Eddie Hernandez Sr. stopped the fight at 2 minutes, 31 seconds.
• Former junior welterweight world title challenger Amir Imam (22-2, 19 KOs), 29, of Albany, New York, returned to the ring following a 20-month layoff to stop Marcos Mojica (16-5-2, 12 KOs), 34, of Nicaragua at 56 seconds of the fourth round of their welterweight bout. Imam scored two knockdowns, including an overhand right for the fight finisher. It was Imam’s first bout since a contentious split from promoter Don King and subsequent signing with Top Rank following a decision loss to Jose Ramirez for a vacant junior welterweight title in March 2018.
“I just have to be consistent at this point in my career. I’m coming back (Jan. 18), and I need to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to me,” Imam said. “I felt stronger as the fight progressed. I had to get the rust off after almost 20 months out of the ring.”
• Middleweight David Kaminsky (6-0, 3 KOs), 19, a native of Israel fighting out of Tarzana, California, easily stopped outclassed Travis Jerig (3-4-1, 0 KOs), 23, of Zanesville, Ohio, in the second round. He pounded him throughout the first round and continued to do so in the second. When Kaminsky landed several unanswered punches, including a flush overhand left, referee Gerard White waved it off at 26 seconds.
• Lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. (16-0, 6 KOs), 19, of Stockton, California, dominated the game Aelio Mesquita (19-5, 17 KOs), 28, of Brazil, en route to a shutout decision win. Flores, who was busy and aggressive throughout the bout, outclassed Mesquita and won 80-72 on all three scorecards.
• Middleweight contender Esquiva Falcao (25-0, 17 KOs), 29, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Brazil, dominated Manny Woods (16-9-1, 6 KOs), 32, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, until his corner threw in the towel, and referee Edward Collantes waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 18 seconds.