Dual guardian angels are atop Jamel Herring’s shoulders each time he enters the ring, reminders of good times and bad but also two very big reasons why at age 32 he’s still fighting in some of the nation’s premier boxing venues.
Herring (17-2, 10 KOs) will add another impressive stamp on his boxing passport Friday when he faces John Moralde (20-1,10 KOs) for the USBA super featherweight title in an ESPN card at the Save Mart Center.
The bout is on the undercard of a lineup headlined by fellow 2012 U.S. Olympian and WBC super lightweight champion Jose Ramirez of Avenal taking on Antonio Orozco in the main event.
Some of Herring’s previous boxing haunts? How about Madison Square Garden, the MGM Grand, the Alamodome in San Antonio, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
But none of it might have happened if not for his best friend’s urging. Herring didn’t know what to do in his life after graduating from high school in 2003. But Stephen Brown, a boyhood friend in Rockville Centre, N.Y., since Herring was 7, came home from boot camp and had a heart-to-heart talk with him about what he needed to do.
Herring enlisted that year in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was 17.
Herring’s world was rocked first in 2004 when Brown died of lung cancer.
To keep his friend’s memory alive, Herring’s first-born was named after Stephen in 2007.
“I really thought Stephen was gonna beat it,” he wrote on the Players Tribune page in 2015. “He just had such great spirit. ...
“It just ate me up inside because I wasn’t even there to say goodbye. When you’re in the military, sometimes you miss out on things.”
Herring served nine years in the Marines, with two tours in Iraq. He also discovered boxing during his active duty.
He was back on base in North Carolina, finishing out his military duties, in 2009 when his second child was born. Her name was Ariyanah.
Then Herring’s world was rocked a second time. Herring was watching TV when his girlfriend screamed. His daughter wasn’t breathing. Doctors couldn’t save her. Ariyanah died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when she was 2 months old.
Herring was depressed. He stopped boxing for two months, but others encouraged him to fight for his daughter.
Herring made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, then turned pro in 2012 at the relatively old age of 27.
His career has taken him to some of those special venues. Friday will be special for a different reason: He’ll be cheered on by 50 uniformed Marines who will line his walk out to the ring and a Marine officer will meet him at the end and walk in the ring with him, promoter Rick Mirigian said.
“It made me proud to be a part of this event,” Herring said. “I’m excited because I’ve seen all the love I’ve been getting from this area alone and I’m expecting a big military crowd and I’m looking forward to it.”
Top Rank Boxing
Main event: Jose Ramirez vs. Antonio Orozco for Ramirez’s WBC super lightweight title, Friday at the Save Mart Center
TV: ESPN at 7 p.m.
Undercard: starts at 3:30 p.m.