Jamel Herring defeated Masayuki Ito by unanimous decision Saturday night in the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN card at the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida.
Fighting on what would have been the 10th birthday of his daughter Ariyanah, and on Memorial Day weekend, Herring, who enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served two tours in Iraq, defeated the favored Ito by scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 118-110 to capture the WBO junior lightweight title.
Boxing smartly from the very beginning from his left-handed stance, Herring (20-2, 10 KOs) neutralized the right hand of Ito (25-2-1, 13 KOs), who won his title last summer by defeating Christopher Diaz over 12 fast-paced rounds. But on this particular night, Herring never got into heavy exchanges with Ito, and for long stretches Ito was reduced to making desperate lunges with his right hand that Herring easily evaded.
While he had pockets of success in the second half of the fight, Ito never truly got going. Herring's jab was sharp and his movement never allowed the defending champion to get on track. The few clean punches that Ito did land never really damaged Herring, who was durable and resolute throughout.
As the final bell rang, there was no doubt who was the winner. While Ito never stopped trying to win, it was Herring who was the superior boxer throughout.
"Ito was a tough competitor, but I always believed I could win a world title. This is a dream come true, and to do this on Memorial Day weekend makes it even sweeter," said Herring, who could soon be lined up for a unification bout against WBC titlist Miguel Berchelt.
"I am willing to fight all the champions. It doesn't matter,'' the new WBO belt holder said.
But Herring knew he was fighting for more than just himself as he faced Ito.
"I want to dedicate this fight to my daughter, Ariyanah, who passed away from SIDS," Herring said. "Tonight would have been her 10th birthday, and I dedicate this title to her."