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Camp Lejeune Marine wins 141-pound boxing title at Olympic trials
Rick Scoppe - The Daily News






Jamel Herring moved a step closer to his Olympic dream Friday night.

The 25-year-old Marine Corps corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune defeated multiple national champion Pedro Sosa of Bronx, N.Y., 15-10 in the 141-pound finals of the U.S. Olympic Boxing Trials in Mobile, Ala.

The victory was Herring’s second over Sosa in three days. Herring, who was seeded eighth but went through the tournament undefeated, edged Sosa 14-13 on Wednesday.

“I feel great,” Herring said in a telephone interview shortly after his victory. “I came in there with a lot more confidence than I had Wednesday. I just wanted to basically prove that I belonged here.

“All week people have been thinking that I was just getting lucky and just getting by. I just wanted to basically show I was a true champion and that I belonged here and that I can fight with the best.”

Herring’s coach, Jesse Ravelo, said his man fought his fight from start to finish.

“He did it! Jamel did it!” Ravelo said. “This was the best bout for him of the tournament. All the other bouts were close, but we knew in this one we had to put a little extra so he did a lot better. It’s a dream come true. So he had to reach for the dream.”

Herring, the 2011 Armed Forces champion, advances to the International Boxing Association Men’s World Championships Sept. 22-Oct. 10 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The top eight fighters there in each weight class advance to 2012 Olympics.

“I don’t like the system,” Ravelo said. “The winners from here go to a second qualifier. To me he’s an Olympian, period. He won the Olympic trial. To me, he’s an Olympian.”

In beating the 19-year-old Sosa twice in three days Herring downed a teenager who won the 2010 USA Boxing national championship, the 2009 National Police Athletic League title and the 2008 Junior Olympic national championship.

After Sosa’s 20-18 win over one of the tournament favorites, Semajay Thomas of Chicago, Sosa’s coach, Marcus Suarez, told The (N.Y.) Daily News “the guy from the Army (Herring) could be a tough fight because he’s 28. He’s already a man, and Pedro is just a kid.”

Herring, who grew up in the Long Island, N.Y., hamlet of Corman, is obviously in the Marines,  and he turns 26 Oct. 30, but Suarez was right about one thing: Herring not only gave Sosa a tough fight, but two tough fights — and he won both of them.

While their first bout was close, the second time around Herring was ahead all three rounds. He was ahead by one point after the first round and up four points after the second round.

“We used our hands a little bit more,” Ravelo said. The guy was a little desperate. We took advantage of that. We knew going into the fight he was going to desperate and he was going to try to knock him out. That way he wouldn’t have to fight tomorrow again.

“But we were prepared for that. He (Herring) was moving well, standing his ground, letting his hands go, overpowering him with every shot, and we ended up being ahead every round. … So he did a lot better than the first time.”

Had Sosa knocked him out, Herring said his opponent would have won the title even though it would have been only Herring’s first loss in the double-elimination tournament while Sosa was already in the losers’ bracket.

The reason: Herring wouldn’t have been allowed to fight Saturday because of the KO and thus would have been disqualified. As it was, that wasn’t a problem.

“He was going for the home-run kill, but I wasn’t allowing it,” Herring said.

Herring said he had a different feeling entering the ring Friday night.

“What was different is I felt like I was the true champion this time around,” he said. “I had more desire to actual win it. I just wanted it more than anybody here I believe. I knew I had to go out and take it by any means. I felt like I was winning the whole time.”

While he isn’t in the Olympics yet, Herring said he could begin to taste it.

“It’s starting to all set in,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot work to do, but I can see it, the vision is a lot more clearer and I can taste it.”

Herring and Ravelo will be back at Camp Lejeune early next week, although Herring said he hopes to take a week or so off to visit his family and relax.

“Just take a little time off, but after that I’m hitting the gym real hard, continue where I left off. I’m just going to work a little harder than before. God knows there’s a lot more to learn, and I have a lot more in me,” he said.

“So I’m not satisfied at all. To me this is just the beginning. But it’s starting to be a dream come true.”