By Francisco Salazar
Back on August 24th of 2007, Mauricio Herrera made his professional debut after a lengthy and successful amateur career. He would score a four round unanimous decision over Angel Osuna at the Omega Products International in Corona, CA.
Who would have thought, outside of his family and friends, that Herrera would begin his pro career unbeaten in 13 fights, appear on a pay per view card, and defeat one of the most feared men in boxing?
Herrera has accomplished quite a bit in his career. However, he has lost his last two bouts in a row.
How fitting he is fighting tonight at the same venue where he began his professional career, where he could jumpstart his career and enter the 140-pound picture.
Herrera will take on hard-hitting Ji-Hoon Kim tonight in a scheduled 10 round bout. The bout will headline a seven bout Thompson Boxing Promotions/ Banner Promotions card and will be televised as part of a special “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN2.
Known as “El Maestro” (Spanish for teacher) since his days as an amateur because he would school fighters, Herrera (18-3, 7 KOS ) is trying to overcome a two-fight losing streak. In his last fight, Herrera lost a close 10 round unanimous decision to Karim Mayfield.
While some fighters may face soft opposition to overcome a two-fight losing streak, Herrera is going right in against a hard-hitting and aggressive puncher in Kim.
Despite the dangers the fight presents, Herrera is eager to get in the ring and look to get the win at Kim’s expense.
“Even after the last two fights, I feel very excited and I feel good for Thursday night,” Herrera told Boxingscene.com in a telephone interview on Tuesday night. “I’m familiar with Ji-Hoon Kim and I see it as a perfect matchup for me because he has basic skills and is not awkward. Since he’s aggressive, I have that opportunity to pull off counter shots.”
Despite fight fans knowing Herrera is at his best when he boxes, he was not able to effectively pull that off in his last two fights. Herrera instead fought more aggressively, some would say recklessly, which played into the hands of Mike Alvarado and most recently against Mayfield.
For Herrera, who will turn 33 next month, it was a wake-up call to fight to his strengths and not fight out of character that has worked in the past.
“I didn’t look good in that fight and neither did Mayfield,” said Herrera, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing and trained by Willy Silva. “I had to go and make the fight happen instead of just letting him come to me. Yeah, he landed his right hand in the first half of the fight. I was frustrated and I still am (from that fight). I do regret not boxing more from the beginning to the end of the fight.”
With a quiet demeanor outside of the ring, Herrera has shown he does not back down from a challenge in the ring. From stepping in against Mayfield to Mike Dallas Jr. to Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis (who fights next Friday), Herrera has stepped in with modest to solid competition.
Despite the recent setbacks in his career, he believes he is still one of the more relevant fighters at 140 pounds today. A victory over Kim (24-8, 16 KOs) will get him down the right path towards a big money fight.
“I have fought a lot of prospects or contenders with one loss in their careers,” said Herrera, whose brother Alberto also boxes professionally. “Even when some fighters don’t want to step in against good or tough fighters, I’ve always wanted to prove myself. I’ve taken on those challenges. Against (former world title holder Mike) Anchondo, I took the fight on short notice. Some decisions like that and losses are mistakes that I learn from and I hope it’ll pay off in time.”
One fighter Herrera fought that was an unstoppable force to some in boxing was Ruslan Provodnikov. Prior to Provodnikov fighting welterweight world title holder Timothy Bradley, Herrera had the claim to fame of having dealt the Russian his only defeat of his career.
It was also an eye-opener to those in boxing, considering few gave Herrera any chance when they squared off in January of 2011. However, Herrera, who suffered a broken orbital bone over his left eye at the hands of Provodnikov, was able box more in the second half of the fight to win a unanimous decision.
Because of the victory over Provodnikov, Bradley used Herrera to spar in preparation for his fight with the hard-hitting Russian.
“Provodnikov was the hardest hitter I’ve faced and I told Timothy about that during his training camp,” said Herrera, who worked with Bradley for two weeks. “I told him to not exchange with him, but he found out for himself. It was one of Timothy’s hardest fights since Provodnikov is like a pit bull in the ring.”
Now, Herrera is back to where it all started almost six years ago, which is an outdoor venue that more resembles its everyday purpose of a loading yard for a hardware and manufacturing distribution facility.
Herrera’s family and friends from his nearby hometown of Riverside will be in attendance. Herrera hasn’t paid attention to the significance of fighting there again. However, one could make a point that tonight’s fight could be a “debut” into the second half of his career where a string of victories could put him in a big money fight or world title opportunity down the line.
“It feels comfortable and good to be fighting near my hometown. It pumps me up and it gives me a boost to have my family and friends there. I know my first fight of my career was there and I’m happy to still fight. I can’t wait to give them another show.”