Jamel Herring hoped to neutralize 135-pound rival Denis Shafikov with his boxing ability and five-inch height advantage Saturday night. Shafikov dashed those hopes swiftly and decisively.
A 5-foot-5 Russian brawler and two-time world title challenger, Denis Shafikov (37-2-1, 20 KOs) proved an unstoppable juggernaut, pounding unbeaten Jamel Herring (15-1, 8 KOs) basically from start to finish en route to a 10th-round stoppage victory at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Shafikov’s onslaught began in earnest with six seconds left in Round 2, when he floored Herring with a right hook. After easily controlling the next two rounds, the 31-year-old underdog unleashed a 15-punch salvo in Round 5 that left Herring bleeding from his nose and mouth.
Then in the opening minute of Round 9, Shafikov—a come-forward fighter who was in the chest of his fellow southpaw all night—put it all together with a blistering, near minute-long assault that Herring barely survived.
After the bell rang to end the ninth, the Marine veteran and 2012 U.S. Olympian retreated to his corner, where trainer Mike Stafford issued a stern warning: “If you don’t show me something, I’m stopping this, man. I don’t want to get you hurt. If he catches you again, I’m stopping it.”
Shortly after the 10th began, Shafikov connected with a pair of left crosses that forced Herring to clinch to remain upright. That’s when Stafford made good on his threat and threw in the towel. Referee Gary Rosato officially waved things off at the 36-second mark, giving Shafikov his fourth victory in his last five outings and saddling Herring with the first loss of his 3½-year pro career.
Shafikov’s only two defeats came in world title fights against right-handers Miguel Vazquez (February 2014) and Rances Barthelemy (December 2015), both of whom are similar in stature as Herring.
“All of my opponents are taller than me. I’m used to it,” Shafikov said. “[Herring] was a tough opponent. I kept hurting him, but he kept coming back. After I knocked him down, I felt that I was in control of the fight, but my corner wanted the stoppage as they did not think I could get a decision here."
Shafikov entered the ring Saturday intent on proving he was deserving of a third crack at a title, and believes he did enough damage to his unbeaten opponent to warrant that opportunity.
“After the loss in the title fight against Barthelemy, the only thing I can think about is fighting for the title again,” he said. “That was my main motivator [tonight].
“I don’t care who I fight or when I fight, I just want to earn another opportunity to step into the ring and earn a world title. This time, I will not let [it] slip away.”
Herring swept the first round on all three judges’ cards as he tried to establish early lateral movement and use his jab to keep the oncoming Shafikov at bay. But the opening frame would prove to be the only highlight of the night for the Cincinnati resident, who took a ton of abuse and never could quite figure out—let alone hurt—his Russian counterpart.
Herring was attempting to go 10 rounds for the third straight time, having previously won unanimous decisions over Luis Eduardo Florez in February and Yakubu Amidu in October.
“He kept on pressuring, and I fell into his game a little bit,” Herring said of Shafikov. “I wanted to fight fire with fire after a while and basically try to back him up. That was the game plan—to hit him with something to keep him from backing me up.
"I was surprised by his punch rate. Every time I felt that I was slowing him down, he would just come back and fight."
While disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to take the fight to the finish line, Herring understood his corner’s decision and was gracious in defeat.
“[Shafikov] did catch me with some good shots, I’m not going to lie about that,” he said. “I fought his fight and could not make adjustments.
“I did not want the fight to be stopped, but my corner did the best thing for me. Losing is part of the game, and all the greats have taken losses. I will be back.”
In the other ESPN-televised bout, 23-year-old Poland native Patryk Szymanski (16-0, 9 KOs) won a 154-pound unanimous decision over former title challenger Wilky Campfort (21-3 12 KOs), a 31-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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