WBO Super Featherweight Champion Jamel Herring successfully defended his title this past weekend on ESPN with a disqualification victory in a fight he dominated in. Unfortunately, the headlines are not praising his victory but drawing attention to the ending of the contest which has created controversy and speculation. Jamel Herring is an ex-Marine, a boxing champion and has never been accused of lacking toughness. He had been giving Puerto Rican challenger Jonathan Oquendo a boxing lesson through seven rounds as only one judge found a round to score against him. Oquendo visited the canvas in round three and was docked a point for an intentional headbutt in the fifth.
Unfortunately for Herring the headbutt opened a nasty cut above his right eye. To his credit he fought on and continued to build on his lead. Oquendo, who has been a crafty and classy fighter in the past fought a very ugly and mauling style to deal with Herring who had him beaten in every category. While the headbutts may have seemed coincidental with Oquendo being an overly aggressive fighter coming inside it became clear that it was his strategy. He continued to stick the crown of his head out toward the face of Herring but masking the headbutts by throwing punches making it seem he was just lunging in to punch. Tony Weeks properly called the headbutts but the ending was bizarre.
At the conclusion of the seventh round Herring went back to his corner with a worsening cut. Brian McIntyre and the rest of Herring’s corner were flanked by referee Tony Weeks and a ringside physician who stood just outside the ropes. The doctor had a quick look at Herring who closed his eye to let him see the cut. Herring turned away quickly as Weeks stepped in to interact with the corner. Weeks did clarify it was ruled intentional but would not tell the corner what to do. Herring continues to say he can’t see and the corner is not sure what to do. You can hear “you will lose the belt” but also Weeks won’t clarify if it is a retirement ” I cannot tell you that”. The doctor does not take any additional time to really examine the cut and at the behest of Herring the fight is stopped.
Yes the doctor had a look but he did not seem to be the one in control of the ending. The referee abdicated responsibility but did let them know the cut was caused by an intentional foul. I think the ringside physician should have been given more of an opportunity to observe the cut but really just seemed to take Herring’s word for it. In an analogy to the OJ Case if Herring knew saying “I can’t see” will get him out of the fight he is going to say it and prove it to the doctor whether it is true or not. Much like how OJ was never going to let the glove fit his hand if that meant his innocence. I think this was a controversial ending but not an injustice.
At the end of the day Herring has a possible big fight with Carl Frampton on the table as Frampton made the transition to ESPN last month. Headbutts can cause nasty cuts or potentially worse damage. The last thing Herring needed was a postponement of the bigger fight and pay day. Also, continuing could have led to scar tissue damage that could easily be reopened in future fights. I see why he did what he did. I also hate to blame the victim as in reality Oquendo wasn’t really boxing in there just ramming in with his head. If a guy is trying to hurt you outside the rules and you have an out I would suggest taking it. Oquendo gave him an out and Herring took it.