Jamel Herring to Defend Junior Lightweight Title Against Lamont Roach Jr.

WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring will defend the belt against undefeated contender Lamont Roach Jr. on Saturday in California.

Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 • 1:00 PM ET

Jamel Herring is looking for a successful title defense in Fresno.

The WBO junior lightweight title will be on the line this Saturday, as Jamel Herring will defend the belt against undefeated challenger Lamont Roach Jr. in Fresno, Calif.

Herring (20-2, 10 KOs) won the title in his last fight in May by unanimous decision against heavy favorite Masayuki Ito. It was the fourth straight victory and first major title for the 33-year-old Herring, who enlisted in the Marines in 2003 and boxed his way as an amateur to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, all while on active duty.

The New York native turned pro in 2012 and put together 15 straight victories before losing by TKO to three-time title challenger Denis Shafikov. He suffered another setback in an upset to Ladarius Miller by unanimous decision in 2017, but he has rebounded to become a champion who can shake things up in his division.

Herring knows that to get title-unifying fights with the likes of Tevin Farmer, Gervonta Davis or Miguel Berchelt, he must focus on Roach first. He’ll take the same “nice guy” approach into this fight.

“I like Lamont,” Herring recently said via Max Boxing. “I have known him for over a decade. There is no animosity. There is nothing personal.

“It’s just business. I have to do what I gotta do to in order to keep my title because at the end of the day, I want to continue to be champion and I want the bigger fights.”

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Roach (19-0-1, 7 KOs) is coming off a slightly controversial unanimous decision win over 36-year-old Jonathan Oquendo in May. The fight was on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Daniel Jacobs fight, and fans didn’t hesitate to boo Roach and the controversial decision.

Roach explained it was the fight he needed to challenge for a title.

“The fight played out good,” Roach said after the fight via Bad Left Hook. “I think I could’ve did better. I’m glad I got this experience, this is what we need to go up to the championship levels.”

Roach’s only setback was a split-decision draw with former title challenger Orlando Cruz in April 2018. The 24-year-old Maryland native is looking for his first major title and will certainly take a step up in competition to face Herring.

Both fighters are battle tested, but the fight will come down to who is willing to take as much punishment as they give.


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be a heavyweight fight between former title challenger Kubrat Pulev and Rydell Booker.

Pulev has won seven straight fights since challenging Wladimir Klitschko for the title in 2014, losing by fifth round knockout. Pulev co-promoter Bob Arum has said that if he wins on Saturday, Pulev will fight for a title in 2020.

"Kubrat Pulev is ready to fight for a heavyweight title today, but he has one final test before that can become a reality," Arum said via Top Rank. "He is motivated to knock out Booker and get ready for his title shot in early 2020."

Pulev was in the same position in 2017 when he was named mandatory challenger to Anthony Joshua, but he had to pull out of the fight due to a shoulder injury. He solidified his position once again in a title eliminator fight against Hughie Fury in October 2018, winning by unanimous decision.

The 38-year-old Bulgarian has key victories in his career over Samuel Peter, Dereck Chisora, Tony Thompson, Alexander Dimitrenko and most recently, Bogdan Dinu by seventh-round knockout in March.

Booker, meanwhile, is coming off a TKO victory over Dieuly Aristilde in June.

Once considered a rising contender, the 38-year-old Booker has a giant opportunity on Saturday. After losing a title fight to James Toney in 2004, he was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute and went to prison for 12 years. He has gone 4-1 since his return to boxing in 2018 and now has the chance to shock the world against Pulev.

“It’s a big deal for me,” Booker said. “This is a chance for me to show everyone that I still have it. I haven’t missed a beat.

“This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in camp with Usyk for six weeks before I got the fight. The numbers made sense, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

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