Jamel Herring and Shakur Stevenson will clash Oct. 23 at Atlanta's State Farm Arena after both boxers signed contracts for the 130-pound title fight, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Herring and Stevenson both will earn at least $1.5 million -- career-high paydays -- for a bout that will headline Top Rank Boxing on ESPN/ESPN+, sources said. ESPN reported last week that the deal was agreed to, avoiding a purse bid.
"I told [Stevenson] ... that when the fight happens, I know it will be his toughest fight," Herring told ESPN last month. "I said it to his face: 'I'm going to be your biggest fight, your biggest test.'
"I've been in there with better guys than he's fought by far."
Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) won the title with a decision victory over Masayuki Ito in December 2018, and has made three successful defenses. The 35-year-old's best performance came in his most recent outing, a sixth-round TKO of former champion Carl Frampton in Dubai.
Herring, ESPN's No. 4-rated junior lightweight, will now face by far the toughest challenge of his career. The same also could be said for Stevenson.
The 24-year-old, an Olympic silver medalist and former 126-pound champion, hasn't faced a wily veteran quite like Herring. In fact, his past three opponents sat far outside ESPN's top 10. But with his blend of defensive skills, ring awareness and footwork, southpaw Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) will be favored to become a two-division champion.
The Newark, New Jersey, native is coming off a lackluster performance in June, a unanimous decision victory over Jeremiah Nakathila. Stevenson, ESPN's No. 3 at 130 pounds, was in control through all 12 rounds but never threatened to put the lightly regarded fighter away, leading to criticism from fans.
Against limited opposition, defensive-minded Stevenson hasn't always thrilled, but faced with a determined champion like Herring, this matchup could be different.
"We got awkward opponents with real good punching power; it's not always easy to shine," Stevenson told ESPN last month. "I ain't the only one that went through this. I go back and look at old Floyd Mayweather fights. ... [HBO commentators] Emanuel Steward and Larry Merchant, they're saying Floyd Mayweather, 'He's not that good. He's a very, very boring fighter.'
"I go fight Jamel Herring next and go beat him and then go beat Oscar Valdez. They'll be saying I'm the best young fighter and put me on the pound-for-pound list."
If this next bout brings Stevenson a chance at redemption, it also offers Herring an opportunity for vindication. A late bloomer in boxing who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, Herring reinvented himself after signing with Top Rank in 2018. The Long Island native's April victory showed that, perhaps, he's still being overlooked.
Against Frampton, Herring used his superior height and reach to walk the Irishman into crisp combinations. He also showed off another underrated tool: power.
With his confidence now brimming heading into the biggest fight of his life, Herring is hoping to upset the odds once again and move on to a title unification with Valdez. Stevenson, meanwhile, is looking to use Herring as a steppingstone to stardom.