Jamel Herring and Shakur Stevenson are finally going to get their hands on each other after months and months of verbal sparring.
“We are in agreement with everything,” Stevenson’s manager, James Prince, told ESPN on Monday. “It’s a done deal. We’re just waiting on the date.”
The 130-pound title fight, an ESPN platform headliner, could take place as soon as Oct. 23, sources said, but might also land in November. Top Rank’s fall schedule is still being ironed out.
The agreement avoids a WBO purse bid that was ordered Monday evening. Contracts haven’t been signed yet but that’s now a formality. Both boxers will earn career-high, seven-figure paydays, per sources, for a bout that is likely headed to Atlanta, though the location isn’t finalized.
“I’ve been happy with what’s been put on paper. I’ve been ready to go,” Herring, 35, told ESPN on Monday. “For me, I just want to have the set date so I can prepare a full training camp and go out there and fight my heart out. That’s all I wanna do.”
Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) said his deal has been sorted for some time, but that Stevenson’s side continued to negotiate with Top Rank, which promotes both fighters.
“I kind of take it as a compliment because it’s a risky fight,” Herring, ESPN’s No. 4-rated junior lightweight, said of the prolonged talks. “If you’re going to take a big risk, you wanna get paid.”
Indeed, the fight shapes up as the toughest challenge of Stevenson’s budding career. The 24-year-old, an Olympic silver medalist and former 126-pound champion, hasn’t faced a wily veteran quite like Herring. But with his blend of defensive skills, ring awareness and footwork, the southpaw Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) will be favored to become a two-division champion.
The Newark, New Jersey, native is coming off a lackluster performance in June, a unanimous decision victory over Jeremiah Nakathila. Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 3 130-pounder, was in control through all 12 rounds but never threatened to put the lightly regarded fighter away, leading to criticism from fans.
Still, it’s hard to come away unimpressed by Stevenson. Against limited opposition, the defensive-minded fighter hasn’t always thrilled, but faced with a determined champion like Herring, this matchup could be different.
“We got awkward opponents with real good punching power; it’s not always easy to shine,” Stevenson told ESPN last month. “I ain’t the only one that went through this. I go back and look at old Floyd Mayweather fights. … [HBO commentators] Emanuel Steward and Larry Merchant, they’re saying Floyd Mayweather, ‘He’s not that good. He’s a very, very boring fighter.’
“I go fight Jamel Herring next and go beat him and then go beat Oscar Valdez. They’ll be saying I’m the best young fighter and put me on the pound-for-pound list.”
If this next bout brings Stevenson a chance at redemption, it also offers Herring an opportunity at vindication. A late-bloomer in boxing who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, Herring reinvented himself after signing with Top Rank in 2018. The Long Island native went on to top Masayuki Ito for the title in December of that year, and has made three successful defenses, most notably a sixth-round TKO of Carl Frampton in Dubai.
That April victory was a career-best performance for Herring, who used his superior height and reach to walk Frampton into crisp combinations. Herring also showed off another underrated tool: power. With his confidence now brimming heading into the biggest fight of his life, Herring is hoping to upset the odds once again and move on to a title unification with Valdez.
“I told (Stevenson) … that when the fight happens, I know it will be his toughest fight,” Herring said. “I said it to his face: ‘I’m going to be your biggest fight, your biggest test.’ “I’ve been in there with better guys than he’s fought by far.”
Soon, the talking will be finished. Stevenson is among the hardest fighters to hit, per CompuBox, and Herring promises to apply non-stop pressure. Something has to give.