BIOGRAPHY OF RHONDA UTLEY-HERRING
Rhonda Michelle Utley-Herring was no real boxing fan when she entered the boxing industry in 1980 and landed an intern position at the New Jersey Office of the State Athletic Commissioner as part of former Governor Brendan Burns= summer program initiative for college students. On the recommendation of her Trenton Central High School principal, Rhonda supplemented her volunteer work experience at a local dentist=s office and began her initiation into the sport of boxing with one of New Jersey=s greatest boxing champions, Jersey Joe Walcott, who was the state athletic commissioner at that time. Rhonda was more eager to spend the summer in Trenton with her fiancé and to make money than she was with her volunteer work. However, with a full scholarship to the Pre-Med/Pre-Dent Articulated Baccalaureate Program at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ waiting for her in the fall, working in the boxing office was more of a stepping-stone toward her long-term goal of becoming a dentist.
That summer experience helped Rhonda to make the decision not to become a dentist, even though she continued her education in biology as a research scientist. She transferred to Rider University in December 1982 and married Leon W. Herring, Jr. in May of the following year. Rhonda graduated in 1984 with a bachelor=s degree in biology, and was hired by Robert W. Lee, then acting commissioner, as a temporary employee at the Commission to help develop the agency=s boxing contestants= win/loss and medical records systems. She was only supposed to stay until she got a job in her field of biology. But the boxing bug bit Rhonda, as well as the fact that she made more money working in an office than she would have as a biolab technician. In 1985, Rhonda was hired full-time as a MIS technician by the honorable Larry Hazzard, who remains the commissioner, today. Cmsr. Hazzard groomed Rhonda to become a boxing administrator and taught her most of what she knows about boxing.
In September 1987, Rhonda was accepted into the New Jersey State Executive Master of Public Administration Program at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. In January 1990, she also completed the New Jersey State Certified Public Manager Program at Rutgers University and graduated with a master=s degree in Public Administration (Government Policy and Planning) in May of that same year. She joined the commissioner=s field team in 1991 as an administrative assistant and was promoted to executive assistant to the commissioner in 1996. That same year in April, Rhonda was proud to be a part of the historical meeting that was hosted in Atlantic City, NJ to initiate the unification process for the standardization of professional boxing championships in the United States. While many are aware that it is Larry Hazzard who masterminded and completed the plan to standardize the sport=s championship fights, few are aware that it was Rhonda Utley-Herring who completed the research and drafted the twelve initial rules that remain the framework for the Unified Championship Rules for the
conduct of professional boxing title fights held in the United States. This plan was historical because it was the first time in the sport=s history that five of the major world sanctioning organization presidents (IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and WBU at the time) had ever met in the same room voluntarily to agree on the same set of rules for title fights for the betterment and unification of the sport. They all said that they did it because of their respect for Larry Hazzard and New Jersey=s integrity and leadership. The plan, often referred to as the AAssociation of Boxing Commissions Unified Championship Rules@, was adopted in 1999 by the National Association of Boxing Commissions and the Rules are a national requirement for the conduct of all international and national title fights held anywhere in the United States. Utley-Herring served as the secretary and first female and African American elected official to the organization at this time as well.
During her two decades at the commission, Rhonda experienced many other positive changes in the boxing world and is proud to be a part of the team responsible for the many advancements that have taken place in boxing attributed to New Jersey=s outstanding leadership of the sport. In the late eighties, Utley-Herring developed and conducted the first New Jersey state survey on professional boxers licensed in New Jersey. Since New Jersey=s casinos, during that time period, hosted a large portion of American professional fights; including championships held in the country, the survey included a vast and significant majority of the Nation=s boxer community and revealed staggering educational statistics and other needs assessments for professional boxers to help determine the necessity for future changes for boxers in America. The study has been referred to as a basis for national statistics during the National Association of Attorneys General Boxing Task Force hearings in 1998 and in numerous boxing articles.
Utley-Herring also developed the first New Jersey State Professional Boxing Certification for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) conducted for all EMTs who work at New Jersey State sanctioned professional boxing and other combative sports events to help ensure that the best, informed medical decisions and care are provided to participants in a safe and expeditious manner. Her endless efforts to help improve the sport didn=t stop there.
Rhonda is most proud of her research for and draft of the proposed National Rules and Regulations Governing the Sport of Professional Boxing, presented by Cmsr. Hazzard on behalf of the State of New Jersey to the Association of Boxing Commissions in 2001 for anticipated adoption by the United States Congress, as well as the Unified Rules of Conduct for Professional Mixed Martial Arts in 2000, now utilized throughout the country as the standard for this new sport. Utley-Herring also initiated and developed a myriad of office and field procedures,
which many in the industry recognize as some of the best and most professional in the world. Rhonda also served as the State Athletic Control Board=s public relations officer, developed many speeches and press releases and occasionally spoke on behalf of Cmsr. Hazzard for many years while employed at the Commission. Utley-Herring has worked closely with various state and foreign boxing commissioners, national and world sanctioning body organization executives and officials, local and international boxing promoters, matchmakers, officials, physicians, inspectors, managers, seconds, announcers, boxers/kickboxers, wrestlers, martial artists, mixed martial artists and casino executives.
In 2002, Rhonda was transferred to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and currently is employed there as an executive assistant in the employee licensing services legal unit.
After leaving the commission, Larry Hazzard tapped Utley-Herring to head the amateur boxing organization, Community Organization Making Boxing Alternatives Today for Tomorrow, AC.O.M.B.A.T.T., Inc.@, which he founded in 1996 and incorporated in 2002. Under Rhonda=s leadership as president and chief executive officer of the non-profit organization, the organization has expanded its social services provided for boxers to two cities, Newark and Irvington, NJ and is currently negotiating potential program operations in Camden County and Asbury Park, NJ. She also continues to serve as Cmsr. Hazzard=s personal assistant, scheduling his personal appearances and speaking engagements, workshops and seminars, writing speeches and assisting in the research and editing of his upcoming book.
As president and executive producer of her own companies, Jahrobi Arts & Entertainment and Jahrobi Co., Inc., Rhonda has also contracted with the Asbury Partners, LLC, the billion dollar development corporation charged with the redevelopment of Asbury Park, NJ, as their head boxing consultant for their professional boxing program at the Asbury Park Convention Center. The ABoxing on the Boardwalk@ Professional Boxing Series, developed by Utley-Herring and conducted by a team of boxing professionals including, Roxanne McElroy White of Roxolid Promotions and Baron AKason@ Hazzard of Hazz1 Management & Promotional Services successfully presented three professional boxing events this past summer and plan live televised events beginning in April 2005 throughout the summer.
In Rhonda=s spare time, she teaches Human Communications: Speech as an adjunct in the Communications Department at Mercer County Community College and conducts communication seminars at the Mercer County Youth Detention Center, State Incentive Program for juveniles monitored by the State. She is a professional grants proposal writer for non-profit organizations, formerly including her famed clients, Sista Souljah, acclaimed author, songwriter and philanthropist and Sean AP. Diddy@ Combs, Hip-Hop and fashion industry mogul and non-profit organization president of Daddy=s House for Social Programs.
Rhonda is formerly one of the founders and president of the Trenton Urban League Young People for Progress and founder of the Frederick Douglass Achievement Award. Other organizational leadership positions formerly held by Rhonda include, president and vice present of the Trenton State Psychiatric Hospital Board of Trustees (11 years membership and 7 years as an officer), president of the Visiting Nurses Association Community Services Board of Directors, president of the La Debu Debutantes Alumni Association, fund development chairperson of the National Urban League Young Professionals, treasurer (and member) of St. Michael=s Episcopal Church and member of the Mercer County Black Business Association. Current affiliations/memberships include, National Consortium of Certified Public Managers, Greenway Wetlands Preservation Society, Rider College Alumni Association, Rutgers University Alumni Association and the NAACP.
Rhonda is married to Leon W. Herring, Jr. and currently resides in Trenton, NJ. Daughter of Alcine and the late Shirley K. Utley, Jr., she is the youngest of four sisters, the late Linda Utley, Shirley Ann Lester, Vallerie Samuels, Evette Utley and one brother, Jeffrey. She has four godchildren, Dana Johnson, Jahrobi White, Omar Williams, Jr., and Danielle Ansley. Rhonda enjoys attending and watching all combative sports, professional football, reading, creative and screen writing, community service, shopping, traveling, theater, movies, backgammon, music, Aladies= day of spa treatments@ with her best friends, Roxanne and Carolyn and spending quality time with her precious pet French poodle, Colbie!