Last month marked the 20th anniversary of Bernard Hopkins’ scintillating 12th-round TKO of Felix Trinidad in a career-defining fight for the boxing legend and Hall of Famer.
It’s an all-time classic boxing performance that Jamel Herring has touted well and is hoping to channel Saturday night, when he defends his WBO junior lightweight championship against interim titleholder Shakur Stevenson.
The parallels between the respective fights, albeit different weight classes, are intriguing.
- When do the 2021 NFL playoffs start? How do they work, and how many teams make it? Schedule, start times, bracket, how to watch
- Terence Crawford or Oleksandr Usyk? Who is boxing's second best fighter after Canelo Alvarez?
- Anthony Joshua close to making new trainer announcement for Oleksandr Usyk rematch says Eddie Hearn
- ‘We’re on the brink now’: Eddie Hearn on Katie Taylor vs. Amanda Serrano announcement, Jake Paul's 'brilliant' role
As of Wednesday morning, BetMGM has installed Herring as a +450 underdog against Stevenson (-750) despite being the world champion. Hopkins was a 3-1 underdog against Trinidad despite walking into Madison Square Garden back in September 2001 as the then-unified middleweight champion to the Puerto Rican’s lone WBA title.
Also similar is that Stevenson (16-0, 8 knockouts) will step between the ropes at State Farm Arena in Atlanta undefeated just as Trinidad was (40-0, 33 KOs), whereas Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) counts two losses on his ledger just like Hopkins (39-2-1, 28 KOs) did at the time.
Then, there’s the age factor with Herring being 11 years older than Stevenson in comparison to Hopkins being eight years older than Trinidad at the time of their clash.
All that being said, Herring would be remiss to not draw inspiration from Hopkins’ performance 20 years ago and he knows it.
“It’s one of my favorite fights that I actually watch over,” Herring tells DAZN News over the phone.
“And it’s crazy because I believe B-Hop at that time was 36-years-old and that was actually his breakout moment of his career,” continues Herring, who turns 36 himself on Oct. 30.
By “breakout moment,” Herring is referring to Hopkins masterfully imposing his will on “Tito,” dominating nearly every round toward a rousing 12th-round stoppage to hand the undefeated favorite his first professional loss.
“We all knew he was a really good world champion but the way he displayed his talent and skill that night against ‘Tito’ Trinidad took him to another level and definitely shot him into Hall of Fame conversation at the time,” Herring tacks on.
“I always look at things from great fighters in the past and I see the great achievements that they accomplished and that’s what motivates me to do something great in my own manner.”
Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) was already sensational in April, when he stopped Carl Frampton in the sixth round following two knockdowns for his third straight championship defense. Making the 24-year-old prodigy Stevenson taste defeat for the first time would only bolster Herring’s profile.
“I think (a win over Stevenson) would take my legacy to a higher standard at the end of the road when I’m done,” he says. “And I think a win this year would definitely put me in the running for potentially Fighter of the Year for having a great 2021. Just to be even nominated or even cracking the Top 10 pound-for-pound list.”
It’s all certainly in reach if he’s victorious Saturday night in Atlanta, an energized boxing market that gravitated toward Gervonta Davis in June and could very well do the same with Stevenson, who has drawn comparisons to Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his sweet science skills and living by the mantra hit and not be hit.
Herring vows he’s most comfortable being doubted.
“Always. Especially when I feel like my back is against the wall,” he offers. “I go out there and prove my worth each and every time, so it doesn’t bother me.”
Either does the betting odds being stacked against him.
“I’m not big on gambling anyway,” he laughs off. “I know I’ve been an underdog in the (Masayuki) Ito fight, I’ve been an underdog in the (Jonathan) Oquendo fight and those two fights alone I put up two of the best performances of my career. A lot that goes on, you can hear it in my demeanor, it doesn’t really bother me. I feel good.”
"There's never been bad blood"
Herring and Stevenson sparred twice back in 2017, when the former was called in to sharpen steel with Terence Crawford for Bud's camp in preparation to fight Julius Indongo in August of that year.
Herring doesn’t take much from those sessions with Stevenson but does find it comical that the Newark, New Jersey product has stated that they’re not friends despite both being part of Crawford’s stable.
“I guess so if he keeps putting it (out like that),” Herring says about Stevenson. “We never had any animosity. We were cool.
“There’s never been any bad blood, beef or things of that nature,” he continues. “He could say whatever he wants about the relationship. I never had an issue with him.
“I still don’t have an issue with him because that’s just not who I am. I take the high road even when there’s been negative things said about me, I never returned any hard feelings or ill will toward him.”
Herring believes the fight came to fruition more so because of the boxing business than a collision course of sorts. That said, the former U.S. Marine, who did tours of duty as a gunner in Iraq in 2005 and 2007, believes Stevenson defeating Jeremiah Nakathila for the interim WBO title in June didn’t quite pan out like the young star had envisioned.
“If you ask me, I kind of felt like at times that the reason why they fought for the interim title was thinking that I would vacate which would elevate them to full championship status,” Herring says. “But I wasn’t running from anybody.”
Both Herring and Stevenson called out WBC junior lightweight champion Oscar Valdez following their last fights, respectively. Instead, they’ll have to settle for this clash against each other.
“Of course if I had my way as a champion, I would like to fight and unify against another world champion,” Herring concedes. “That’s why my last fight I called out Oscar Valdez.
“But this is also another great fight for my career,” he continues. “I don’t really care for what people try to portray my opponents as being the next big thing."
Then again, rerouting that "next big thing" while reinforcing his own greatness would leave indelible marks.