This Saturday, July 2, 2016, Jamel Herring (15-0, 8 KOs) takes another step up in competition when he faces two-time world-title challenger, Denis Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout.
The matchup will headline a Premier Boxing Champions card live on ESPN and is a chance for Herring to cement himself as one of the best up-and-comers in the Lightweight division.
Herring has a strong amateur background and was a member of the 2012 Olympic team, but unlike many of his teammates, Herring was not billed as a can’t-miss prospect when he turned professional.
“Let’s be honest, out of the Olympic Games, no one really gave me a chance to do anything,” said Herring during a recent conversation with Round By Round Boxing.
“In terms of my career, and I’m not downing any of my Olympic brother’s because I’m happy where they’re at, but I feel like in my career I’ve had to earn everything the hard way. It’s four years later [after the 2012 Olympics] and I’m just starting now to get TV exposure and things of that nature and people are still wondering if I’m the real deal compared to my other teammates. I appreciate the road that I’ve taken and it really keeps me hungry.”
Amateur experience aside, one could look at the tale of the tape for this fight and reasonably assume that Herring is in for a really tough night.
Herring and Shafikov are nearly the same age–Herring is 30, while Shafikov is 31–and they are both southpaws, but that’s just about where the similarities end.
Shafikov has fought 39 times as a professional and has a whopping 244 rounds under his belt, compared to Herring’s 15 fights and 68 rounds.
Herring is well aware of the edge Shafikov has in experience and Semper Fi doesn’t miss a beat on social media, keeping up with predictions and the prevailing opinion of this fight.
“Even Dan Rafael, he’s backing Shafikov off of his experience. He gave me credit, saying I’m a good fighter, but said this is going to be my real test to see if I’m the real deal,” said Herring.
“I can respect that because if you look at the last two fights I had, they were supposed to be step-up fights, but if you look at just the scorecards alone, I basically haven’t lost a round in my career.”
According to BoxRec rankings, Shafikov is the 11th best Lightweight in the world, while Herring surprisingly comes in at No. 75. Shafikov is No. 9 in the IBF rankings and No. 14 in the WBC rankings, while Herring doesn’t make the top 15 for either sanctioning body.
Shafikov has come up on the short end in his two title fights–against Miguel Vazquez and Rances Barthelemy, respectively–but Herring is not underestimating his opponent’s caliber and knows that this fight will be a true test.
“I feel like Denis Shafikov is the real deal, I’ll give him that,” said Herring. “Even though he came up short in his two defeats they were for world titles and against top quality opponents. I have to respect his experience.”
Although Herring may not boast the professional ledger that Shafikov does, you can surely rank his training camp as pound-for-pound one of the best. Herring split camp, spending the first half in Cincinnati and the other half at Headbangers Gym in Washington, DC.
“Every time I come to DC, Coach Barry Hunter and Patrice “Boog” Harris always turn it up.”
Hunter is well known for his work with former world champion, Lamont Peterson, while Harris is a social media sensation for his pad work videos with the likes of Gervonta Davis, Patrick Harris (Patrice’s son), Rau’Shee Warren and Dusty Hernandez-Harrison–to name a few.
Herring feels that the sparring sessions at Headbangers have prepared him for any version of Shafikov.
“I sparred with Patrick Harris who is a young prospect and southpaw, Tyrek Irby who was a top amateur and is a southpaw. But most importantly I did a lot of rounds with Lamont Peterson, who isn’t a natural southpaw, but for this camp he stepped in and sparred with me southpaw every session.”
At 5’10”, Herring towers over the 5’5″ Shafikov, so it’s to fair to think that Shafikov will need to work hard to get inside to have any chance of winning.
The work with Peterson was extremely important to Herring because of the different looks he gave Herring in the ring, including the aggressive, come-forward style that Shafikov has showed recently.
“Lamont likes to press his opponents and I needed that pressure and physical strength that he brings to the table,” said Herring. “With Lamont, he can box, he’s a pressure fighter, he can slug and he can be a boxer-puncher. He has a lot of different arsenal in his repertoire. He’s a great help. We sit down and talk about things to look out for.”
Herring considers himself a throwback fighter–akin to Pernell Whitaker’s boxing style–but he wants fans to know that he will be looking for openings to exploit, and if the opportunity presents itself he won’t hesitate to close the show with a bang.
“I want to go out there and stick to the gameplan, but also make a statement,” said Herring. “If we see some openings I want to turn it up some more and take more chances. I actually want to be one of the first people to put this guy away. He’s a tough fighter, but he’s human at the same time.”
And if things end up being easier than expected, don’t assume Herring will fall asleep at the wheel–he doesn’t even want to lose a round.
“As fans have seen before, they can expect me to fight from Round 1 to Round 10 because I don’t want to lose a round [laughs]. Even when I know I’m up [in the fight] I’m still going out there to fight.”
Catch Jamel Herring vs. Denis Shafikov live on ESPN on Saturday, July 2, 2016 from the Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania starting at 9:00 pm, EST. Stay with Round By Round Boxing for discussion, highlights and photos of the bout as well as a full recap.
Alejandro "Alex" Burgos is a former Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Round By Round Boxing. He is a professional blogger, SEO Consultant and Marketing Director at Capital Practice Consulting in Washington, DC.