Making the Rounds: Jamel Herring tests positive for COVID-19; Bob Arum's plan for Lomachenko-Lopez

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.

Herring-Oquendo postponed

This just hasn’t been Jamel Herring’s year.

After scoring an impressive victory over Lamont Roach in Fresno, California, on Nov. 9 in the first defense of his WBO super featherweight title, the captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team was expected to meet former world champion Carl Frampton in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in what would have been a sensational show.

The coronavirus pandemic put an end to that.

Herring was then rescheduled to fight Jonathan Oquendo at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on July 2, but that fight is now off, as well.

Herring, one of the best guys in boxing, announced Tuesday on Twitter that he tested positive last week for COVID-19 and had to pull out of the fight.

Jose Pedraza vs. Mikkel LesPierre will now headline the July 2 show, Top Rank confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

Herring said he feels fine and plans to reschedule his bout with Oquendo as soon as possible.

Arum’s big plan for Lomachenko-Lopez

Top Rank has done five shows since it returned from the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the fights its fans are desperate to see remain in a holding pattern.

Without fans, it’s difficult to put on expensive fights such as Vasiliy Lomachenko against Teofimo Lopez in a lightweight unification match that is one of the best matches that could be made.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has a plan for that.

He said his company has been engaged with the MGM Grand and officials at the Nevada Athletic Commission about having a limited number of fans at a card headlined by Lomachenko and Lopez as soon as September.

Vasiliy Lomachenko poses with promoter Bob Arum after defeating Jose Pedraza in the WBO title lightweight boxing match at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Howard Simmons)

Under Arum’s plan, fans would be invited into the MGM Grand Garden for the show. He said he estimated about 2,000 to 2,500 fans would work. They would be spaced out in all different parts of the arena, which when filled and depending upon configuration can hold as many as 16,000.

Arum concedes he’ll never be able to get as big of a gate doing that as he would if he was able to fill it with fans, but he said generating some kind of revenue might make the bout possible.

“We’re not talking cheap tickets here,” Arum said. “So we’d have to give them something for their money to make it a nice night and worth their while. We could serve food, give them some [fight merchandise], a program, drinks, that kind of thing. Make it a really classy event with some great fights.

“With the purses these kids get, we just need some kind of gate revenue to help us pull this off. We have to see how things go with this virus, but by that point, we’ll have had experience with this thing for a couple of months and we’ll know a lot more about how to do it safely. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Arum high on Bennett

Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, isn’t shy about not approving “B-side” opponents. It’s one of the things he’s consistently done since taking over the job after Keith Kizer’s resignation seven years ago.

It’s also infuriated matchmakers.

But the frequently volatile Arum has nothing but praise to heap on Bennett.

“He’s working his ass off to do everything he can to make these fights as safe as possible, and I think he’s doing a great job,” Arum said. “He’s communicating with us a lot and he’s working with the MGM very well. There is a lot that goes into putting on these fights and it’s not easy. He has a ton on his plate and he’s doing a great job, in my opinion, even if every now and then he makes a decision that you disagree with a little bit.”

Why sign with Top Rank?

The Moloney twins, WBA super flyweight champion Andrew, and his bantamweight brother Jason, make their U.S. debuts Tuesday and Thursday. They signed with Top Rank a month or so ago and are going to base themselves in the U.S. for the time being. They’re from Australia.

Boxing isn’t huge in Australia right now, so they want to try to build their reputations here. Asked why they signed with Top Rank, the twins answered immediately, and in unison.

“Bob Arum,” they said, almost as if they’d rehearsed it earlier.

“The guy is 88 years old and he’s so sharp and he’s on top of things and still has the leading company out there,” Jason Moloney said. “Look at what he’s done over the years, the job he did promoting Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather, Manny [Pacquiao], all those guys. His record speaks for itself. It’s huge for us to be able to work with him. He’s a true legend.”

Slugger gets his shot

Heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller will make his return to boxing on July 9 at the MGM Grand Conference Center on a Top Rank-promoted show. It will be his first fight since Nov. 17, 2018, when he stopped Bogdan Dinu.

That win earned him a title shot at IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, but Miller failed multiple drug tests and was yanked from the fight. Andy Ruiz Jr. stepped in and knocked Joshua out on June 1, 2019, to become champion.

In the interim, Miller signed with Top Rank. On July 9, he’ll meet Jerry “Slugger” Forrest, who recently signed a promotional deal with DiBella Entertainment.

Forrest isn’t nearly as well known as Miller and this will be the biggest fight of his career.

Top Rank ratings consistent

UFC president Dana White has a fierce rivalry with Arum, and has consistently mocked the boxing Hall of Famer for the ratings Top Rank has gotten since its return on ESPN.

White was crowing on Saturday and called out Arum by name, even when he wasn’t asked about him, because the two had shows on consecutively.

The UFC show, which had a main event of heavyweights Curtis Blaydes against Alexander Volkov, averaged 912,000 and peaked at 1.2 million.

Top Rank followed immediately after the UFC show and began with 808,000 viewers in the first hour, but dropped to 197,000 in the last quarter hour during the main event between Emanuel Navarrete and Uriel Lopez.

Top Rank averaged 327,000 fans during its block.

Top Rank president Todd duBoef has consistently shrugged off White’s criticism and has said ESPN has been happy with its ratings. Its shows were all on Tuesday and Thursday evenings until this last one, which was broadcast from Mexico City on Saturday.

He said it

“I think it would have been quite tactical. I think I would outwork him. I think it would have been quite a close fight because he is very cagey, also he likes to counterpunch. I’m also a counterpuncher. I liked to feint and let fighters come onto me, like the Jeff Lacy-style fight. Andre Ward is a very clever fighter. It’d be quite cagey. I’d win the fight, I think it may be a bit like the fight with [Bernard] Hopkins in some rounds. It’s one of them fights, I think I would have beaten him on points but whether it would have been a great fight to watch, I’m not too sure.” Hall of Famer Joe Calzaghe on a fight with Hall of Famer Andre Ward, to British Boxing TV.

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