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Nick Peet: Jamel Herring vs Shakur Stevenson preview

October 20, 2021January 7th, 2022

FORTUNE favours the brave (or foolish) this weekend when boxing throws up yet another mouth-watering matchup as two of the very best super-featherweights on the planet collide in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jamel Herring makes the fourth defence of his WBO 130lb world title against undefeated former featherweight champ Shakur Stevenson in a fight that is filled with intrigue despite some pretty conclusive betting lines.

The challenger has the hand speed and slick style hallmarks of a potential future Hall of Famer. But he’s also making the biggest step up of his career to date against a champion who is accustomed to upsetting the odds.

As an amateur, former US Marine sergeant Herring juggled two tours of Iraq with qualification to both the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics. On both occasions he was the underdog going in, yet he scalped a series of national champions to captain Team USA on the biggest stage.

Finally cashing in on a 23-2 nine-year pro career, Herring also just recorded the biggest win of his life in April when he sent former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton into retirement with a sensational sixth round TKO.

A tall southpaw who boxes intelligently and, as you would expect from a military man, thrives in the trenches, Herring may have arrived at the party late but he’s worked harder than most to get to the top and has unequivocally squeezed every drop of potential out of his career.

Herring is also a huge super-feather, measuring five-foot-10 with a 72-inch, three inches taller and four inches longer than Stevenson, who looked comfortable down at featherweight.

So, why are the odds so heavily in favour of the challenger you may ask? Quite simply, Stevenson is a boxing phenom.

 

 

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, aged just 19, he was the most successful male US boxer, capturing a silver medal to add to his Youth Worlds gold from 2014. Now 16 fights into his paid career, the 24-year-old has hardly dropped a round or broken a sweat.

In fact, across those 16 fights so far, I count 93 rounds started and only two rounds that were not unanimously scored in his favour. Sharp, elusive, efficient and nasty too, baby-faced Stevenson seems destined to achieve boxing greatness over the coming decade.

His 50% knockout rate may not jump off the page, but he’s shown more than enough quality already to suggest he’s got the skills to continue to move through the weight classes and collect silverware.

Despite this being a substantial step up in level of competition, if Stevenson turns up then Herring is in for a long frustrating night. However, if the youngster switches off and starts to coast, as he has done in the past, then Herring could find a way in.

To have any chance Herring needs the action to descend into a brawl. That’s the only way his greater size and strength can redress the skill balance. But if Stevenson is smart – and he is – then the old bull will find his young matador simply too accomplished to fluster.

With odds stacked so heavily in favour of Stevenson there is little value in his likely landslide points victory. On the flip side, those huge odds against Herring are too tempting to resist for a motivated and in-form defending champion.

TIP: Herring by TKO