The last shot at glory for Carl Frampton as WBO champion Jamel Herring awaits for desert storm
World Boxing Organisation super-featherweight title: Jamel Herring v Carl Frampton (28-2) (Caesar’s Palace Dubai, tonight, 10pm, live on Channel 5)
A SCAN through the list of world champions a couple of years ago would have identified a guy approaching his mid-30s who looked vulnerable.
The fighter had already lost twice well below world title level and he had no eye-catching wins over marquee names on his record.
The man’s name was Jamel Herring and, on paper, he looked beatable. On paper.
In reality, Herring is much more formidable and Carl Frampton will have to be at his very best to rip the WBO super-featherweight belt out of the tall, southpaw’s hands in Dubai tonight.
‘Semper Fi’ (his ring moniker is a nod to his service in the US Marines) is an aggressive, strong and awkward southpaw who remains underrated but was prepared to travel to Windsor Park to fight Frampton last summer. Home, away or on neutral ground, he’s confident he can out-fight the Jackal and you can understand why he would think like that.
It’s over four years ago since Frampton lost his featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas and the interim period has been filled with controversy, pull-outs, High Court wrangling, a win over Nonito Donaire and a loss to Josh Warrington in late 2019 when Frampton tried heroically but failed to win his world title back.
After postponements in Belfast and then London last month, Frampton versus Herring will take place in far flung Dubai (not exactly the fight capital of the world although it plans to be) and it will be screened on Channel 5 (great news for fight fans but not exactly the world’s biggest broadcaster).
Frampton’s stock has fallen due to his inactivity and Herring does not have the profile to be a pay-for-view draw in the States but life will change for the winner tonight. On the flip side, the loser could well have reached the end of the road although, if the fight lives up to its potential, a rematch in the summer must surely be a possibility.
Frampton says boiling down to 130lbs must have taken a toll on Herring and he predicts that will catch up with the American tonight. He’d be foolish to rely on that happening and so it was reassuring to hear him stress how he has prepared for the absolute tip-top Herring.
“I’ve got to expect the best Jamel Herring there’s ever been,” he said.
“Looking at his last performance (the second defence of his title against Jonathan Oquendo), he got a bit of criticism for that from the media and from other people but my own performance wasn’t brilliant in my last fight (a so-so stoppage win over Darren Traynor) either.
“I think both of us need to be a lot better for this one to come out victorious. I’ve prepared to be better and hopefully Jamel is as well and it’s going to be a good fight.
“I think the fact that I’ve got here with two weeks to go from a four-hour time-difference is an advantage to me.
''We’ll see what happens but I’m expecting a Jamel Herring performance like the (Lamont) Roach performance, like the (Masayuki) Ito performance… I’m expecting the best of him and I’ve prepared for that.”
The fight has been “a long time coming” Frampton agrees. It has been in the mix for the best part of two years and Frampton’s training was disrupted by a hand injury that saw this match-up postponed and moved from London to Dubai.
Apart from that, the Tigers Bay native says his camp has gone exactly to plan and he has been in Dubai for the past fortnight, acclimatising and getting his body prepared for the bell at 1am (10pm in Ireland).
“I think it was definitely beneficial for me to get out here early,” he said
“I had a sparring partner with me and I finished my preparation here. I think it was beneficial to get used to my surroundings and the heat and everything else and I’ve finished off what has been a very good camp.
“People will talk about the hand injury that delayed this fight for a little while but it was something very small, it was no real issue.
“I took a bit of TLC on my hand for a week and went back sparring and hitting the heavy bags.
''But the camp, after from that, has been very good, top notch, I’ve no complaints. I am just where I need to be right now and I’m looking forward to the fight.”
The first, and only, time Jamie Moore prepared Frampton for a world title fight, his script went flying out the window onto the Manchester streets when Josh Warrington jumped on the Jackal in the first round at the MEN Arena two years ago.
Frampton fought back ferociously that night but the furious early pace took too much out of his legs.
Will Herring try the same tonight?
Possibly, bit Moore knows that if Frampton is to win, he has to box clever and stick to the gameplan.
“I had a vision of where I wanted him to be for a fight of this magnitude and knowing what Carl can do and how he can perform, I had a picture in my mind of where I wanted him to be and he is probably a little bit in front of that which is obviously a great position to be in,” he said.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything to go better apart from that week when we had to take our foot off the gas a little bit.
''But that little delay made everything fall into place a little bit better. He has put himself in a position to pull off a historic win and achieve something that no other Irishman has done.”
From Herring there is respect before the fight and there will be after it but he will scrap tooth-and-nail every minute he’s in the ring to hold onto his belt.
“This is my moment,” he said.
“This is a big fight for me. I’m honoured to have it and I have to take it one round at a time.”
Frampton is the younger man and he has boxed at a higher level. If both fighters were at their peak, he’d by the favourite here but tonight there are questions for him to answer and points to prove to his critics, to his former handlers and, most importantly, to himself.
Does he still have the stamina, speed and skill to be a world champion? Does he still have the hunger to bite down on that gumshield in the hurt locker?
Will Herring be too big, too strong for him?
A terrific fight is in store and to win it the Jackal will have to produce the on-point, 12-round performance that we haven’t seen since his win over Leo Santa Cruz in New York.
Defeat could be the end of him but there should be enough left in the tank. This is his last shot and he’ll take it.