Saturday, May 7, 2016

On This Day: James 'Red' Herring: Junior Welterweight Champion

By #Peter Silkov

James ‘Rebel Red’ Herring was a colourful fighter with a big punch, who was born James Bryan Herring on March 19, 1896, in Paducah, Kentucky.  Herring was a boxing instructor in the US army during WW1, and stationed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, and Camp Pike Arkansas.  Herring gained the rank of Sergeant eventually and claimed a Army record of 35-0-1.  He won the featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight Army titles at Camp Shelby.  Herring’s first professional fight is thought to have been in 1913, when he boxed on a benefit for striking for Kentucky railroad workers, and won his fight on a knockout.

Although details of his early fights are not clear, it is known that by 1915, Herring had won, and lost the USA Kentucky state lightweight championship.  In the course of his career, Herring would hold the Southern State lightweight championship several times, in addition to holding the Southern State middleweight title.

In a long and busy career, Herring fought fighters such as Benny Leonard, Young Stribling, (who would say that Herring had hit him with the hardest punch that he ever took) Patsy McMahon,  Frankie Jones,  Cowboy Eddie Anderson, Harry Mason, Boots Antley, Sid Barbarian, Jack Russo, Mushy Callahan, Larry Avera, Sergeant Sammy Baker, Nick Testo, Pete August, Young Jack Thompson, Jack Britton, and Duke Tramel. 

Herring claimed the World light welterweight championship on March 27, 1925, when he beat champion Pinky Mitchell on a 6th round disqualification.  Although three days later, the chairman of the Wisconsin Commission, Judge AJ Hedding, ruled that Mitchell had not lost his world title, Herring still retained recognition as champion with some members of the media and the public.

In his next fight, on March 31, 1925, just 4 days after the Mitchell contest, Herring defended his title, recognized by the NBA against Young Ketchell, whom he stopped in 3 rounds.  Herring’s claim to the World light welterweight title would start to dim after he lost to Mushy Callahan on August 18, 1925, even though this match was billed as a non-title fight. 

By the late 20s, Herring was running a boxing gym in Utica, NY, which baseball player, Art Mills, would run in his absence when he was travelling for fights.  Herring retired for a time in 1930, but then returned for four fights in 1933, in order to promote the Convention Hall in Utica, where he promoted fights from 1930 to 1937.

Following these 4 contests, (of which he won 3 and drew the other) Herring retired for good, with a final record of 175(75koes)-43-34. (Including a ‘newspaper decision’ record of 23-4-2)  

Herring was Recreational Director for the town of New Hartford, New York, from 1938 to 1940, and from 1955 to 1960 he was Athletic Director for Griffis Air Force Base, in Rome, New York. 

‘Red’ Herring died on May 7, 1974, and is buried in Carr Cemetery, in Marcy, New York.


Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to


  1. Hi. I was wondering if anyone knows of the origin of the belt that Red Herring is wearing in this article. Thanks, Bob Bryla

  2. I don't understand why the US Army has a hard time filling its ranks. I understand we are a nation at war, but not all Soldiers deploy.MP Training Qatar

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