Mahaska and TYR Endurance Sport sponsored athlete, Jamel Herring, is an extremely passionate and hardworking athlete. He may have started his boxing career late in the game, but he continues to work towards being the best boxer he can be. Not only has Jamel spent his life fighting in the ring, but he has also fought for our country by proudly serving in the US Marine Corps. With many struggles to overcome in his past, Jamel explains that those struggles have helped shape him into the strong and family-oriented man he is today. Dedicated and motivated, Jamel consistently strives be a better boxer, husband, father, and a continued inspiration to the community. Get to know more about Jamel Herring and his life experiences in the interview below.
What initially peaked your interest in boxing?
It’s actually a crazy story. A lot of people do not know this, but I picked up boxing pretty late. It was at the age of 15 when I started, and most boxers start at the age of 8. I only started boxing after I got cut from my junior-high school basketball team due to poor grades. I always looked at myself as an athlete, so I wanted to find some sort of sport to stay active and busy in. That is when a close friend of mine asked if I wanted to come down to the local gym and box. At first I was hesitant because when I thought of boxing, I thought of films like ‘Rocky’. I thought how I did not want to get face bashed, like the characters displayed in the movies. After awhile I finally gave in and said, “Whats the worse that can happen?”. That’s when I went down to the gym and started training. After the first week or so, I fell in love with it! It was rough at first. I remember getting beat up after my first couple of sparring sessions, but I told myself I would not quit or give up. My first trainer, Austin Hendrickson eventually found out about my poor grades in school and told me that I had to maintain discipline not only in the ring, but also outside of the ring. He said that if I did not pick up my grades, I would not be allowed to train under him anymore, which devastated me. I eventually cleaned up my act. Over time I eventually made the honor roll every quarter of my senior year of high school, which I was very proud of.
Do you remember your very first match? What was going through your mind?
I remember my very first match pretty well, and it was a scary experience! I was nervous and felt butterflies throughout my stomach all day before the fight. I knew deep down this would determine if boxing was something I wanted to do. I ended up winning my first fight, which was a relief, but I knew it was only the beginning and I had a lot more work to do back in the gym.
How was Marine Corps training compared to boxing training?
Marine Corps training was more mental than physical, especially going through basic training. I enlisted after my high school graduation when I was only 17 years old. I can honestly say that I was not fully prepared with what was to come and did not feel too mature either. Once I stepped foot on Parris Island, there was no turning back. I still remember spending my 18th birthday at basic training, where they showed no mercy. In the end, I think it was around that time where I began to mature and look at life differently.
Having been Captain of the 2012 Olympic Boxing team and Sergeant in the Marine Corps at the same time, surely you have been through a lot of tough times. What do you do to get yourself through those mentally challenging moments, whether it is in the boxing ring, in the Corps, or in life?
Being a sergeant of the Corps and team captain of the 2012 Olympic team was a great honor for starters. I believe it was my life experiences overall that contributed to getting the job as Olympic team captain. A lot of people may not know this, but I lost my best friend. The reason why I enlisted in the Marine Corps was because he was a Marine a year prior to me joining. In 2004 he passed away from cancer, which was a huge blow. Up until this point, I have been through two deployments to Iraq. During my first deployment, my oldest son was born. I had to maintain a strong mentality because I knew I had to get the job done and make sure that I made it home. In 2001, I lost my two month old daughter Ariyanah to SIDS. This really took a toll on me, but if it was not for my family and the Marines I served with, I do not know how I would have gotten through it. I believe any normal man would have been broken and given up on everything. I knew deep down inside that was not what my loved ones would have wanted for me. I shared my life experiences with my Olympic teammates hoping to help them cope with their rough patches and tough times in life as well. Overall, I took all the negative experiences that happened to me and turned them into something positive.
Do you have any pre-fight rituals? If so, what are they?
I have a pre-fight ritual where I pray not only for myself but also my opponent. I understand that boxing is a contact sport and injuries occur, but in the end, I pray that no fatal or permanent damages take place. Boxing is first and foremost a sport in my eyes, and I never want to see anything tragic take place. Other than that, I like to listen to slow relaxing music that will keep my nerves calm before I walk out to the ring.
What is your favorite flavor of TYR Endurance Sport?
My favorite flavor is Orancia! A lot of my friends and family prefer Fruit Punch, but I think Orancia is the best flavor.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of boxing?
My favorite thing to do outside of boxing is to spend as much time with my family as possible. I love spending time with my loved ones and never mind going out to see a good movie every now and then.
What is something no one would guess about you?
I do not think that anyone would guess that I am kind of a nerd. I am really big on technology and would prefer anything that deals with hardware, over shopping at the mall for clothes and sneakers. Also, people would not know that I am a huge fan of anime. ‘Dragon Ball Z’ is probably my favorite anime. I would say that not only am I athletic, but I am a bit of a nerd as well.
Name one thing on your bucket list that you would like to do at least once in your life.
I would honestly like to meet Jay-Z, mainly because of his story, what he has been through, and how he has become who he is now. I want to pick his brain and actually hope to gain some knowledge that could help me elevate in my life as well.
What does a day in your shoes look like?
Everyday I start off by getting my first workout out of the way early in the morning. Afterwards, I try to rest because I usually have another workout that has to be completed. My second workout, depending on the day, consists of either an 8 mile run or a strength and conditioning session with my Olympic fitness coach Rob Schwartz. Once I am done working out for the day, I spend the rest of it peacefully with my family. I either take them out for dinner, a movie, or just relax at home. On the weekends, I leave boxing alone and focus on what is important, which to me, is my family or other errands that I may of forgotten to do during the week.
What do you do to balance the personal and professional parts of your life?
When I’m away from training camp I make sacrifices and fully focus on training. Luckily, I have a family who understands what I am going through during camps. When I am free I will either call or FaceTime my family so they can hear my voice and see my face. When I am home and away from the gym, I am fully committed to making up all the lost time I missed with my family. It can be rough at times, but I usually get by pretty well.
Where do you see yourself in your career in the next 5-10 years?
In 5 or 10 years I see myself as an multiple world titleist, but I do not want it to stop there. I am hoping I can use my success to help others and give back to my community back in Long Island. Overall, I see myself being more than just an athlete, and I want to help those who believe and look up to me.
A big thank you to Jamel for taking the time to these questions. Be sure to watch Jamel in his next fight on Friday, August 28th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC! #TeamHerring