Jamel Herring – Tough As Nails
U.S. Marine Sgt. Jamel Herring was two years removed from his final tour in Iraq when life hit the boxer with another devastating blow—right to the heart.
In 2009, Herring, now 26, lost his daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She was only two months old.
“It was heartbreaking,” he tells the Press during a recent phone interview from London, where he’s been training for the past several weeks. “It was the worst time in my life.”
It affected his whole family.
“I can remember that day like it was yesterday,” recalls his mother Jeanine. “Getting that phone call in the middle of the night of him upset, crying, yelling—his daughter isn’t breathing.”
Herring also lost one of his best friends, Stephen Brown, to lung cancer in 2004.
Instead of dwelling on the tragedies, however, he’s used them as motivation for the future—one that seems brighter, despite the lasting scars from burying a child and losing a best friend. Boxing is his therapy.
“I thought life was just going great and then once again for me tragedy struck,” says Herring. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but thank God for friends, family and the Marine Corps. They all help me cope with it.”
Herring’s daughter will be on his mind when he enters the ring and that first bell sounds. July 27 not only marks the kickoff of the London Games, but the three-year anniversary of her death.
“I’m basically going to try to turn the negative into a positive,” he says. “I’m basically dedicating everything I do after the opening ceremony, here on out, to my daughter.”
Herring’s trainer, Mike Murphy, president and director of Atlantic Memorial Boxing Club in Shirley, tells the Press his pupil is equipped to handle the pressure of his first Olympics. After all, the boxer has seen tougher days—from the deserts of Iraq in 2005 and 2007 as a field electrician stationed in Fallujah, to coping with the agony of his daughter’s death.
“He’s good,” Murphy says proudly. “He can go as far as he wants to go.”
Herring, who has two other children, was 15 years old when he first walked into one of Murphy’s gyms in Medford. Back then he was just a raw athlete, not the “experienced” and “intelligent” boxer he is now, Murphy says.
In 2003, Herring traded his boxing trunks for a Marine uniform, leaving the friendly confines of the sweaty, bloodstained boxing ring on Long Island for the dusty, sun-soaked deserts of Iraq.
In between becoming a full-time member of the Marines’ boxing team in 2008 and getting on a plane for London, Herring won the 2011 Olympic Trials, earned Gold at the 2012 U.S. National Championships and won two Armed Forces Championships.
“Never give up on anything that you have your eye set upon,” he says. “Don’t give up on your dreams. A lot of people counted me out, but I never gave up. I’m living proof now.”