Fans of technical excellence are in for a treat this Saturday evening when two of the world’s best schooled cruiserweights test their skills against each other at the Bamberg Arena in Germany.
Cuban exile Yoan Pablo Hernandez, now based in Halle, returns from a 14 month siesta (caused by a fractured left hand) to make an intriguing third defence of his IBF strap against fellow southpaw Alexander Alekseev of Uzbekistan.
Watch the whole bill live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation from 8pm Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com
The 6ft 2in challenger was once one of the world’s most celebrated amateur talents, capturing European titles at both junior and senior level prior to landing gold at the 2005 World Seniors.
Re-locating to Hamburg, Germany, he vaulted into the pros the following year, aged 25, but, rising through the ranks, endured a brace of inside schedule defeats albeit to future world champions Victor Emilio Ramirez (rtd9) and Denis Lebedev (co2).
However, the 32 year old regrouped to capture the European crown with an emphatic 12 round decision over Serbia’s one time IBF challenger Enad Licina and retained his claim with a credible draw against Turkey’s veteran WBA king Firat Arslan 18 months ago. This mandatory challenge is long overdue.
Champion Hernandez is a stellar product off the lauded Cuban amateur conveyor belt and he captured a world junior title in the singlet of his birthland in 2002.
Following his defection in 2005, the 6ft 4in Ulli Wegner trained portsider compiled formidable 27-1 (13) stats with the only blip an almost inexplicable third round stoppage loss to Guyana’s Wayne ‘Big Truck’ Braithwaite (once WBC champ) in March 2008.
He has since resurrected his career with 13 consecutive wins, capturing the WBA interim strap by icing Frenchman Steve Herelius in round seven in February 2011, then upgrading to full IBF status with a six round technical decision over Phillie’s Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham eight months after.
Successful defences against Cunningham and Canada’s dangerous Troy Ross (both on points after 12) distinguish Hernandez as a quality operator but to what extent will he have been compromised by 14 months lounging on the physio’s couch?
To analyse what promises to be a high grade tussle between time served master craftsmen, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up Nathan Cleverly, the recently deposed WBO light-heavy champion, who begins a new chapter of his career in the 200lb division on the big Copper Box Arena show in east London next weekend.
“This fight is very interesting for me from a personal view having just stepped up to the cruiserweight division.
Stylistically, they’re pretty similar; tall technically adept southpaws who’ve both been well schooled through there respective national amateur programs. You know both will turn up in great shape.
I’ve seen several of Hernandez’s title fights on BoxNation and he always looks pretty decent. He’s a fair size for a cruiserweight and he uses his advantages well. Obviously, he’s benefitted from coming through the great Cuban amateur regime.
He’s a quality, skilful boxer; quite a sharp southpaw. He uses that southpaw stance to good effect – changes the angle and direction of his left hand well - but this time he’s in with another left hander.
Whenever I’ve seen him, Hernandez’s been very efficient and effective. He doesn’t waste many punches and he doesn’t make very many mistakes. He’s very tricky, very hard to beat.
Clearly he’s dangerous early on. He had Steve Cunningham over in the first round of their first fight, then twice in the early rounds of their rematch. But both times he took his foot off the gas and allowed Cunningham, a quality boxer, back into the fight.
I can’t really identify anything that the champion does badly. I suppose the big imponderable is how he’ll react if someone really puts it on him and takes him out of his comfort zone; backs him up and puts him into situations that he’s not familiar with. Can Alekseev ask those questions of him? What kind of pace is Alekseev capable of maintaining?
I saw Alekseev on BoxNation a couple of years back and remember he looked very strong and solid physically. He’s a proper Eastern European, very technically correct behind the southpaw stance. Like Hernandez, he’s brought many of his good amateur ways into the pros with him. He holds his hands high, leads off the jab and I’d imagine that he’ll be very hard to break down.
To enjoy success against Hernandez, I think Alekseev will need to assert himself onto the front foot, impose his strength, step in with solid left hands to unsettle the champion. I think he’ll find it hard to win a points decision over Hernandez, especially in Germany, so I think he’ll need to take a few risks.
However, I’m not sure that Alekseev is the type to go out and try to really put it on his opponent. He’s more of a cagey one. Like most who went through the Russian system, I expect he’ll find it difficult whenever he’s confronted by an opponent who’s dynamic; blessed with good speed and natural movement. Alekseev appeared a little flat footed when I saw him.
Though it’ll probably be quite cagey, both are top quality operators so it’s going to be interesting to see who can create the openings and break through with the meaningful shots, those big backhands. I expect both will find it difficult to land clean.
It’ll be close but I’m going to side with Hernandez to retain on points. He needs to keep it simple and use lots of subtle movement and feints without going crazy. He can’t afford any sloppy shots.
I think he’s a bit sharper, will be first to the punch, and possesses a little extra flair. That’s what I think will be decisive in allowing him to nick a few more rounds than Alekseev can nick.”