amel Herring’s second WBO junior lightweight title defense probably didn’t play out and certainly didn’t end like he might have wanted, but the ex-Olympian still has his belt as a result of an odd disqualification victory over Jonathan Oquendo.
The 34-year-old Herring (22-2, 10 KO) was the better fighter throughout the bout, sharper and quicker and with superior skills, but the rugged veteran Oquendo (31-7, 19 KO) fought in the only way that gave him any shot, repeatedly making things rough and dirty on the inside, leading with his head, and staying in Herring’s wheelhouse.
The good news for Herring is that he scored a great third round knockdown on a left uppercut. The bad news — and the more important news — is that he suffered a cut in the fifth round due to what was ruled an intentional headbutt from the 37-year-old Puerto Rican fighter, who was getting his second and almost certainly last shot at a world title.
Herring opted to continue on in that fifth round, though he had an out there to say he couldn’t see and preserve a tentative November date against Carl Frampton. After the eighth round, with Herring struggling to keep Oquendo from doing the same reckless things Oquendo had been doing all night, things got confusing.
In the corner, Herring and his team, led by trainer Brian McIntyre, started saying Herring couldn’t see. That, of course, prompts any doctor to stop a fight. If you tell a ring doctor that, they are going to stop the fight. But McIntyre seemed confused on what would happen if they did that; he feared that Herring saying he couldn’t see would cause Herring to lose the fight, and asked referee Tony Weeks to explain the rule to him.
Weeks told McIntyre he couldn’t tell him what would happen, but while they were talking, the decision was over. The doctor was going to stop the fight, and that’s what happened. ESPN commentator and former world champion Tim Bradley seemed to think this meant Oquendo was the new champion, but that was never in play.
Then, however, Weeks wanted to rule a DQ, going back to the fact that the cut that stopped the fight had occurred due to an intentional headbutt from Oquendo in the fifth round. The Nevada commission wanted to send it to the cards for a technical decision, which Herring certainly would have won. Bad Left Hook had the fight 79-71 for Herring on two separate cards, and ESPN’s Andre Ward had it 76-74 for Herring, which seemed a little more critical of Herring than it should have been, but then you never know.
In the end, the DQ ruling won out, and that does seem to be the proper decision, in terms of following the rules and all. It’s a bit puzzling that the glut of officials representing the Nevada commission took as long as they did to come to a ruling they should all have been clear on, but it’s boxing, and life goes on at any rate.
Herring is unquestionably going to take criticism for this, fair or not, and he gave himself some after the fight, too.
“We knew coming in he was going to be aggressive with the head first, but it just kept repeating, and Tony finally caught on to it. I didn’t want it to end like that,” Herring said. “I’ve been there, but my team felt it was too much. So we just had to stop it or whatever.”
“It just got too ugly, I wasn’t too satisfied with my performance, to be honest with you,” he added. “I wasn’t happy with how it was looking. I’m disappointed with the outcome, because I’ve been through worse, but I’ve never been in that situation. It’s not all about just getting the win, it’s how you look. I’m a harsh critic on myself, but it is what it is.”
Herring said he felt no ill effects from the coronavirus diagnosis he had in June, which twice postponed this fight from its original July 2 and July 14 dates.
“Physically, I was good. I know he was trying to out-work me, but I was actually, in terms of conditioning, I was good. It just got too ugly and the second half to me was just bad.”
Herring also said that he’s still ready for Frampton next, but that cut was certainly not good, and getting him back in the ring by November now seems like a major longshot. One would guess the fight still happens, but we may be looking at early 2021 now instead of late 2020.