By Grant Cohen
PARK CITY, Kan.– Nico Hernandez did not know who his opponent was until hours before his third professional fight on Saturday.
Instead of cancelling the fight, the 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist and his team decided that too many factors played into reschedule.
The fact that Hernandez’s fans were anxiously waiting for him to step in the ring and the three year anniversary of the death of Tony Losey, the 21-year-old’s boxing teammate and best friend, fueled Hernandez to fight 12 pounds above his weight class. Despite getting up to 116 pounds to fight at 125, Hernandez defeated Kansas City MMA fighter Kendrick Latchman in a six-round unanimous decision to remain undefeated at Hartman Arena on Saturday night.
“As a team, we learned what to do and what not to do,” said Lewis Hernandez, Nico’s father and trainer. “We put ourselves in a very dangerous situation, probably the most dangerous situation that we’ve ever put ourselves in. It was hard, but Nico adapted. He adapted and overcame what he had to, because that’s just Nico. He knows how to win and he wants to win.”
Hernandez’s original opponent, Francisco “Guerrero” Lapizco, was forced to withdraw from the main event by KO Night Boxing after breaking his contract. Hernandez’s team scheduled Basyzbek Baratov for Saturday’s card, but the 2-1-2 boxer pulled out following Friday’s weigh-in.
‘Stating false information on reasons why’, according to a Facebook post on Hernandez’s page, promoter John Anderson confirmed that Basyzbek withdrew because Hernandez weighed in at 113 pounds for a 112 pound fight. The Kansas Boxing Commissioner, in cooperation with the Kansas Athletic Commission, allows boxers to fight one pound over, but Basyzbek felt that Hernandez being over was an unfair advantage, Anderson said.
Latchman received a call from Hernandez’s team about making the drive for Saturday’s fight, in which the 24-year-old agreed.
“I’m a fighter, so that’s what I do,” Latchman said. “I try to fight the best, I want to be the best fighter. (To do that), I have to challenge myself against the best. You can’t call yourself the best fighter if you don’t fight the best.”
Both Hernandez and Latchman dealt with last minute changes prior to their fight. Hernandez had to eat more food and drink more fluids throughout Saturday in order to get his weight up to 116. Latchman said he was told prior that the fight would be four rounds and was told upon arriving to Hartman arena that the fight would be six rounds.
Fighting at 125 pounds, Latchman tried to pace himself in order to have energy left for the final two rounds. After battling through four rounds, Latchman ran out of gas in the fifth and sixth that allowed Hernandez to land his punches and ultimately claim his third professional win 59-55, 59-55, 60-54.
“Nothing that he did surprised me or hurt me at all. I wasn’t in the best shape,” Latchman said. “I planned on a four-round fight and I was going to go out a little bit harder than I did and then they told me six [rounds] so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to pace myself.’ [The loss] doesn’t discourage me. It just motivated me more to always stay in shape and to stay ready at all times.”
Hernandez was put in a similar situation of not having a lot of time to prepare for an opponent when he competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Instead of focusing on the opposition, Hernandez had to invest his attention on his own technique.
Latchman’s boxing style was different than what Hernandez was scouting for his opponents, something that Hernandez said he had to adjust to once he was in the ring.
“[The Olympics] helped me a little bit, but it was a little different,” Hernandez said. “At the Olympics, I’m not really training for one certain person. This fight, I was training for one certain person and it was way different style than what Kendrick fought. When I got in the ring, I had to adjust.”
Feeding off the crowd’s energy chanting his name, Hernandez was the early aggressor and landed his punches. Latchman was looking for the counter punch, according to Lewis Hernandez, forcing Hernandez to take his time.
As Lewis Hernandez shouted that advice to his son in the ring, Hernandez followed by not being flashy for the fans, but being patient for his shots.
“When I got in the ring, I realized his arms were longer. He was waiting for me to come in and commit,” Hernandez said. “I just went back to the corner and listened to what the coaches had to say and came out with the victory.”
KO Night Boxing announced Hernandez’s next professional fight would occur on December 2 at Hartman Arena, but his opponent is to be determined.