Boxing: London Olympics

Olympian Herring: 'Gold is all I care about'

July, 25, 2012

The Olympic village can be a seductive spot. Understandable. There are more than 10,000 athletes at the Games, most of them in prime physical shape, most of them in a buoyant mood, which can make them susceptible to expressing that buoyancy in ways that can perhaps detract from their focus on the task at hand: winning a gold medal, or at least performing to the highest possible personal level possible.

Jamel Herring, a co-captain on the U.S. boxing team and a Long Island, N.Y., native, assures NYFightBlog that he is going to stay on message and remember throughout this Olympics experience that such an opportunity will likely come only once, and must be seized with proper enthusiasm.

Herring, 26, will campaign in the junior lightweight division. He's a Marine who has served two tours in Iraq, so it frankly doesn't surprise me to hear him express such maturity. He has seen things and done things that his teammates cannot even fathom, experienced situations and emotions that either make or break you.

Herring touched base with us to talk about the move from Bolton, England (where the squad was training), to the Olympic village in London, his mindset as he moves towards a bout and expectations of him and the squad as a whole.

"The move from Bolton to the Olympic village was like a breath of fresh air," Herring said. "The hospitality in Bolton was great, and Amir Khan [the ex-junior lightweight champion from Bolton] was a good host for allowing us to train in his gym, but at times everything just seemed to move slow. Once we got to the village, it felt like we caught up with time again."

I got a sense of the Bolton-to-London trek from Julie Goldsticker, who heads up media relations for the squad. "On Tuesday, we took a bus to London from Bolton, left around 10 a.m. and got into London a bit after 3, following two pit stops. It was the full U.S. crew, including the Olympians, training partners, coaches and a couple of staff folks. They stopped first at University of East London to drop some of the staff and training partners there before they headed to the team processing at the Sarah Bonnell School. There, they received all their gear, got sized for their rings, took photos, etc., before being transferred into the village, and it was about 9 p.m. by the time they got into their rooms."

Herring told me that he is fixated on winning gold and won't be swayed by a jubilant atmosphere in the village.

"The gold is all I care about," he said. "Amir and others said the village can get wild with people partying and mingling, but I really don't have that interest. I just want to do my job and then worry about celebrating afterwards. I have a dream I want to fulfill, and this is my only shot."

Please check back for more details from Herring, as he expresses his reaction to pundits saying that he doesn't have much of a chance to get gold.

Herring: Warren has best chance for gold

July, 5, 2012
During my chat with Jamel Herring, the junior welter Olympian from Coram, Long Island, I put the boxer on the spot. Which one fighter on the U.S. squad, I asked, soon heading to London for the Games, has the best chance to win gold? As he paused, I wondered if he'd tab himself, or offer another option. After about two seconds, Herring, the 26 year-old hitter who is hoping to be the first Marine to win gold since Leon Spinks in the 1976 Games, gave his pick.

"Rau'shee Warren," he said of the three-Games vet who is just 25 years old.

"It's long overdue," Herring said of the flyweight. "He doesn't take no days off. He motivates me every time we partner up. He could've easily quit, got a big paycheck in the pros, but he doesn't care about the money."

That lack of fixation on money has touched Herring and the rest of the squad. One need only peek at a newspaper to see half the pages filled up with the latest misdeed by a Wall St. titan, or another account of how politicians spend the GDP of a small nation on their campaigns. So yes, it does resonate when someone leaves money on the table, and works and fights for something other than green. "Rau'shee doesn't talk about who is after him, Golden Boy, Top Rank, et cetera."

Warren, a tri-captain of the crew along with Herring and Seattle's Queen Underwood, promised his mom Paulette eight years ago that he'd put his medal around her neck, and has stuck to that promise over the allure of a fat signing bonus. That, to me, is an American worth making a fuss over.

Marcus Browne, from 'bully' to Olympian

May, 21, 2012
A boxing writer will find himself defending his vocation quite often when making a new acquaintance.

"But ... isn't boxing brutal? Do you ever find yourself wondering if it should exist?" I hear quite regularly soon after shaking a new hand.

And the answer is alway, "Yes ... it can be brutal. But I do believe there is a place for the sport in this society ... because boxing has given thousands upon thousands of youths who were headed for a bad end, and who might have left a wake of carnage and lingering woe in their wake as they trod clumsily and violently on their way, a purpose, a reason for being. There can be a heavy price to pay when you box, but it is by and large a toll taken on oneself, and the toll that would be taken on the street if so many of these kids didn't box is simply immeasurable."

This is not to say that Staten Island's Marcus Browne, the three-time N.Y. Golden Gloves champion who is headed to the London Olympics where he will try to land a gold medal at light heavyweight for himself and his nation, would have been public enemy number one had he not found the ring.

He described himself to me in a recent interview as a "bully," and "a hard-headed, dirty little little kid" and "a troublemaker" and said that he was always looking for fights. But it doesn't take a leap of imagination to comprehend that it was a distinct possibility that the kid who admitted that he used to take advantage of those weaker than him would have graduated to a higher grade of violence and mischief as he got older. "What road I was on I can't tell what my future would hold," he told me. "But I was on a path to destruction."