Boxing Champ Jamal Herring’s Challenges Gives Him Something Special Going Into His Fight Tomorrow

For many parents, especially African-Americans, when Child Protective Services get involved, their anxieties take on a heightened urgency.  Regardless of how the process is done, the aftermath of children being removed from their parents’ care has adverse effects.  

“I remember my mother just being upset and thinking that they just took me,” Herring told (read the story here) ESPN writer Michael Rothstein. “That’s the last thing I remember from that experience. I’m 35 years old. That one moment still sticks out,” Herring told Rothstein, recalling the day that he and his younger brother Jarod was removed from their care and placed in foster care for 18 months.  

Like kids who enter into the foster care system, Herring (22-2, 10 Kos) holds the WBO belt and will defend the title against Shakur stevenson (16-0,8 kos) tomorrow, suffered the psychological effects. Herring developed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and would go on to struggle with alcoholism.

Herring and his mother

 Thankfully, Herring’s mother, Jeanine, whose kids were removed from her after she was busted selling drugs, recognized her mistakes.

“I was young. I was doing stupid things,” Jeanine told Rothstein. “That’s what I meant by I have to get my life together. Like, nuh-uh, after that happened, [the case] went to court, and I did everything the courts told me to do, and that’s why it took how long it takes to get your kids back.”

Although Herring was reunited with his mother, his life was still in disarray.

By age 15, he took an interest in boxing; however, he also excelled in track and basketball.  But unlike boxing, track and basketball were closely connected with strict academic rules. Herring said he was a poor student and his lack of interest in educational pursuits dampened any hopes of him earning a college scholarship. 

Herring was presented with two options: take his chances of surviving on the streets of Coram, New York, on Long Island where he grew up, or divert his attention toward something that offered positive discipline for an at-risk kid. 

  “He saw something in me,” Herring told ESPN writer Mark Kriegel about Herring’s childhood friend Stephen Brown. Brown had enlisted in the Marines and convinced Herring to do the same; figuring he had nothing better, Herring followed in Brown’s steps and joined the Marines.

But, shortly in the Marines, Herring, 35, discovered eye-opening events. “Incoming fire from mortar rounds, one after another … just basically making it to the next day was a blessing,” he told Kriegel.

“One story that actually bothered me the most was a female Marine that got killed. It was at night. She was having a smoke..” He added, “. … Sniper fire. That was my biggest fear. Whenever we got stopped, I felt like I was a sitting duck, ’cause I’m on top of that Humvee. That was probably the most nerve-wracking thing of it, basically being stuck in the middle of nowhere. “

Despite it all, boxing never left Herring’s spirit as he still competed as an amateur. Life was good, and it turned brighter after Herring’s wife, Jennifer, gave birth in 2005 to a boy named Stephen.

The Herrings had a second child, Ariyanah, who was born in 2009 on Memorial Day.  Her parents basked in joy only to experience a nightmare.

“I ran up to go check [ after hearing his wife’s yells]. I took my daughter out of the crib,” Herring said to Kriegel. “I laid her [his daughter] on the bed. I tried to give her CPR. She wasn’t breathing…” The doctor informed the couple that their daughter died from “SIDS.” Sudden infant death syndrome.  

Shortly after, Herring’s PTSD and alcoholism worsened, and he was coming to term with Brown’s death due to an illness.  

“There were nightmares. Not much sleep. He became paranoid.,” wrote Kriegel. “Again, Herring didn’t leave the house much, but when he did — say, to a restaurant — he’d sit with his back to the wall and watch the door. Clock who’s coming and going.” 

Going into tomorrow’s fight, Herring says he feels good mentally. He’s currently writing a book entitled ‘The Fighting Marine.’

“Somebody might be going through the same scenario as I did when I was 5, 6 years old, and that may help them get through a rough patch they are going through,” Herring told Rothstein. ” I’ve been through a lot as a child and as an adult. …and I still had risen up and gotten stronger…. [and] if I can tell my story and potentially help save a life in the process, then I’ll do that.”
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