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November 1998

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Issue cover I TOLD YA SO

Flashy Floyd Mayweather was as good as his word when his chance came against Genaro Hernandez. GRAHAM HOUSTON reports from ringside in Las Vegas


Photo shot

BOB'S YER UNCLE: Arum says he can make Mayweather as big as De La Hoya - Get Big Pic

After all the trash talk, Floyd Mayweather walked the walk as he outclassed and stopped Genaro Hernandez in eight rounds to capture the World Boxing Council super featherweight title at the Las Vegas Hilton on 3 October.

Mayweather, the 21-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but who now calls Las Vegas home, did everything his father and trainer, Floyd Sr., said he would except that he did not get Hernandez out of there in less than five rounds. But he would have done so, the senior Mayweather said afterwards, if he had followed his father's instructions more closely and banged Hernandez to the body more often instead of shooting for the head.

Just as his father had predicted, though, Mayweather was too strong, too fast, too young and too hard-hitting for the 32-year-old Hernandez, a professional boxer for 14 years whose only loss in 40 previous bouts came when his nose was shattered by an Oscar De La Hoya left hook.

Not even De La Hoya, however, mastered Hernandez as easily as Mayweather did.

There were no knockdowns, but Mayweather - who entered the ring a 9-5 on betting favourite - jolted Hernandez often, inflicting bruises around the older man's eyes and denting his nose.

And after eight rounds, Rudy Hernandez, the former fighter who trains his younger brother, had seen enough. He called over referee Jay Nady to say the fight was over.

There was no argument from Genaro, who knew that all he had to look forward to was another four rounds of being pasted.

One feared that Mayweather might gloat. It had all been so easy. The young man has been labelled cocky (although Mayweather prefers to call it confidence). But, one is happy to report, instead of showing hubris, Mayweather was humble in victory. He exhibited a sensitive side to his nature, shedding tears after being declared the winner, then allowing Hernandez to dominate the podium at the post-fight press conference.

Mayweather Sr., the former pro welterweight who once fought Sugar Ray Leonard, was also refreshingly low key. But then, he had been right all along - no need to rub it in.

The new champ - the 1996 Olympic lightweight bronze medallist who becomes the first member of the U.S. Atlanta squad to capture a world pro title - said: "I just wanted to take my time and relax, counter punch and do the best thing I could do to win. I feel I've got the best defence in the world, but I got hit more than I usually get hit. Genaro hit me with some shots I didn't expect to get hit with.

"This is the best fighter I ever fought. Genaro Hernandez was tougher than I anticipated, but after the second round I started using my jab a lot more and taking control of the fight."

Asked to evaluate his performance on a scale of one to 10, Mayweather said: "I felt I got like an eight." But Hernandez took the microphone and, smiling broadly, told us not to believe it. "He's lying," Hernandez said, to laughter. "I don't care how many fighters are out there, there ain't nobody [could] beat me the way he did tonight. I'm a two-time world champion, I don't miss much [with punches] but I missed a lot today with Floyd. So I rate him as a 10."

And Hernandez was indeed made to miss, so many times that the veteran of 14 previous world title bouts began - unbelievably - to look like an average fighter. It was Mayweather, with only 17 pro bouts behind him (all wins, 13 inside the distance) who was looking like the master boxer.

This was shown in the judges' scorecards. Judge Bob Logist, of Belgium, had Mayweather winning every round, 80-72, Terry Smith of California had it 79-73, giving the seventh round to Hernandez, while Chuck Giampa of Las Vegas also saw it 79-73, scoring the eighth, and, as it turned out, final, round in favour of the champion.

Hernandez did, indeed, do his best to rally in the seventh and eighth rounds, taking the fight to Mayweather and attempting to overpower him with aggression. But the veteran from Los Angeles got the worst of it as Mayweather fired right back at him.

Although Hernandez said afterwards that he would have fought on, but that his brother overruled him, it appeared that the champion was glad when his ordeal was over.

It was the second time Hernandez has lost by retirement, the first coming, of course, against De La Hoya, and it seems unfortunate that he will perhaps most be remembered as a champ who - to put it harshly - quit on the two occasions when he knew he could not win.

Just 15 days earlier, Julio Cesar Chavez had surrendered in his rematch with De La Hoya, also in Las Vegas.

In neither case could I blame the defeated fighter. How many times have we wondered why a corner did not pull their man out when a fight has become a lost cause? For instance, many of us at ringside thought that Rafael Ruelas was allowed to go on too long against Kostya Tszyu at El Paso in August.

And yet Ruelas is one of the many warriors in ring history who would never have capitulated, who, if they could not win, at least demanded the satisfaction of trying to go the limit. Too game for their own good, one might say. Yet these are the fighters who will have a special place in the affections of fans.

Hernandez had shown character in his title fight with Azumah Nelson in March 1997 when he chose to continue, rather than take a disqualification victory, after being dropped by an after-the-bell blow to the throat.

As Hernandez himself admits, though, age is catching up. He had hinted even before the bout with Mayweather that he is coming to the end of his career (this may indeed have been his last fight, although he wishes to be given time to think things over) and brother Rudy was not prepared to see him exit the sport with the sort of hammering that could have had a lasting effect.

Rudy told his brother before the start of the eighth: "Last round!" He told Genaro that he had lost every round, to "go for broke" in an attempt to turn the tide. But when Hernandez was again on the receiving end - after a strong start to the eighth round - Rudy decided there was no point in sending his brother out for more of the same.

But while Hernandez (who got his biggest purse of $600,000, to Mayweather's $150,000) contemplates the end of his career, the future is rich with promise for the new champ. At time of writing, his promoter, Bob Arum, was seeking to match Mayweather with tough, talented Angel Manfredy in December at Madison Square Garden. The fight would be televised by Home Box Office, which showed Mayweather's bout with Hernandez and is, Arum said, interested in a long-term agreement with the fighter.

Some in Arum's organisation - including matchmaker Bruce Trampler - had wondered if Mayweather was ready for Hernandez. But after the way that the challenger dominated the fight, the question now being asked is if any of the other fighters in the 9st 4lbs (130lbs) weight class are ready for Mayweather.

Promoter Arum said afterwards: "I have seen really talented young fighters, they come into a fight like this, they fight better than they've ever fought before, they rise to the level of their competition, they give such a wonderful performance, and I must say that even though some people in my office had some trepidations about the fight when we made it, Floyd's father was absolutely, supremely confident from the get-go.

"Then, of course, he [Mayweather] went up to Big Bear [in the mountains east of Los Angeles] and trained, and he never looked as good as he did in training for this fight. His body was terrific - he could go, like, 50 rounds if he had to at that kinda pace.

"The unfortunate thing is, he was so good that he made one of the great 130-pounders in history - Genaro Hernandez - look ordinary. And Genaro is a wonderful, wonderful fighter, he really is. But it was certainly a no contest because Floyd was so superior.

"If the fight had gone on, at best for Genaro would have been four rounds of the same. He was taking an awful beating, and he could have been knocked out - he could have been hurt. And he's meant so much to the sport, and he showed what a great guy he was in the Azumah Nelson situation, that I was very delighted that his corner was smart enough to stop the fight."

If Hernandez wishes to fight on, Arum said he would like to match him with Cesar Bazan, the World Boxing Council lightweight champion, perhaps in January.

As to Mayweather, Arum said: "He's only 21 but I think not only has he matured as a fighter, he's matured as a person. We all have very, very, very high hopes for Floyd Mayweather and we hope that he'll be a superstar in the same manner as Oscar De La Hoya."

Hernandez said: "I take my hat off to Floyd Mayweather, he did a very good job. There ain't nobody around at 130 pounds as good as Floyd Mayweather. Floyd had everything going for him tonight and I'm pretty sure he'll have everything going for him in the future."

He thanked his brother, Rudy, for stopping the fight, saying: "I would have been a bull-headed guy, I wanted to continue fighting. After the seventh round he [Rudy] told me we had lost every round. Father Time caught up to us. It's the same for every great fighter. I'll have to go back and see [on the videotape] what beating did I take today and decide if I'm interested in fighting again. I was defeated in a real bad way. I never thought I'd lose a fight the way I did tonight."

After a closely fought opening round, in which the 5ft 7ins Mayweather seemed to be struggling a little with the height of the 5ft 11ins champion, it settled down into the sort of fight in which youth, speed and power decides the issue.

Each man slipped down in the opening round when pulling back from a punch, and they went down together in the second, Mayweather on top, when they got tangled in a clinch. But by the end of the second Mayweather was beginning to get his left jab to work - stiff jabs they were, too - and he landed a right-hander that clearly shook Hernandez. The pattern had been established, and it did not vary.

Mayweather received cautions for holding behind the head, but Hernandez tried to rough up the younger man in the clinches. But Mayweather's speed was starting to befuddle Hernandez by the third, the rapidity of his punches - including a swift, sharp right-hand lead - catching the champion by surprise. And so it went, round after round.

When Hernandez went to the ropes to try to draw Mayweather on to counters, the challenger either stayed on top of him and outpunched him or stayed back and measured him for telling blows.

Some of Hernandez's punches landed, his left hooks having Mayweather looking a little puffy around the right eye, but the younger man was doing the seriously hard hitting. And Mayweather was confident enough to stand in front of Hernandez, left arm low in a style somewhat reminiscent of his uncle Roger -the two-time world champ. who was at ringside - relying on his reflexes to pull away from punches. Hernandez began to miss wildly, and Mayweather drilled him.

By the seventh there was a bruise and swelling under Hernandez's right eye. His rushes were checked by counters - a right uppercut here, a left hook there. "Man, this kid is good!" exclaimed a reporter from Mayweather's hometown newspaper in Grand Rapids who was sitting next to me.

And after eight rounds the fight was over as Rudy Hernandez spared his brother further punishment. One long-running world-championship career is over; another may be just beginning.

 

One could forgive Floyd Mayweather Sr. for saying: "I told you so." After all, the 45-year-old ex-fighter had been telling us all along that his son, Floyd Jr., was in a different class to Genaro Hernandez.

Backstage at the Las Vegas Hilton, Mayweather Sr. said: "Little Floyd [as he calls his son] will knock out anyone at 130 pounds, The Prince [Naseem Hamed], all of them."

A reporter suggested that his son might have to go up to lightweight to get a test worthy of his talents, but Mayweather Sr. said: "I'm not going to 135 [pounds] just because it makes you great. The object is to win. In boxing history, a good big man usually beats a good little man. He will probably go from 130 to 140 pounds [9st 4lbs to 10 stone] in his career but only when it comes naturally."

Talking about the win over Hernandez, Mayweather Sr. said: "Seeing as he's [Hernandez's] the champion, I would call the first round pretty even, but after that everything started going downhill [for Hernandez]. I told my son to step it up with his jab. I'd watched videos of Hernandez and, to me, after two or three rounds he starts getting sloppy, and that's what I seen happening.

"To be honest, I think my son could have stopped him way earlier, something like the fourth or fifth round, if he would've used the body attack like I said. But he's still young, time is still on his side. Hernandez is a good fighter, but like I told you before, Little Floyd is too young, too fast, too strong, hits too hard and he's got more knowledge than Hernandez. That was the fight. He [Hernandez] took a brutal beating." And what about Little Floyd's projected fight with Angel Manfredy? Mayweather Sr. said: "He'll knock Manfredy out tomorrow. I'm telling you right here - Manfredy will be stopped."


Also available to read from issue:

Magazine Contents:
Full details of the November 1998 issue - the complete contents listing.

World Rankings:
See where the top fighters were rated when November 1998 went to press...

TREADING WATER
Roy Jones is back in action again, but his match against Otis Grant has a formality to it. GRAHAM HOUSTON reports

R U READY FOR THIS?
Finally De La Hoya will feature in the kind of match befitting him, but will he find the going too tough when he faces Ike 'Bazooka' Quartey this month? Preview by GRAHAM HOUSTON


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