By Ben Jacobs
Mauricio Herrera (20-4, 7 KOs) won the hearts of many boxing fans with his performance against Philadelphia’s Danny García back in March. Although the judges awarded García a majority decision, many fans and journalists felt Herrera had done enough in Puerto Rico to become the WBA and WBC junior welterweight champion. This Saturday in Las Vegas, Herrera has another chance to further enhance his name as he faces Venezuela’s tough, Johan Pérez (19-1-1, 13 KOs) for the WBA interim title.
BoxingScene spoke to Herrera last week about his upcoming challenge as well as the subject of Danny García and the controversial choice for his next opponent.
BoxingScene.com: Danny García is considered by many to be the best fighter at 140lbs, yet many people believe you beat him, so what does that make you?
People said he was the best and people thought I beat him, it makes me feel good, it makes me feel like I’m up there where I belong, with the best fighters. There’s a lot of tough unknown fighters on their way up so you’ve always got to be at your best. Anyone can come at anytime if they’re a known name or a no name, so you’ve always got to keep proving yourself. Maybe it’s the no name they underestimated and they didn’t watch any videos. Or maybe they did check out videos and they didn’t care. Either way, every man who puts on gloves is dangerous and I proved that. I was hungry and whether he saw it or not I proved it to him.
BoxingScene.com: After losing the decision, did you feel depressed or did it fire you up even more to do better?
It’s part of boxing, it is how it is, there’s only so much you can do. But it makes you hungrier, to know you were that close to the belts and just because of a mistake from the judges I didn’t get them. You feel motivated and you want to train so you have something big around the corner.
BoxingScene.com: You have had success in the past against hard punchers and now you face another one. Do you enjoy neutralizing that style?
I think I do well with big punchers, the harder they hit the better I can do in there, the best comes out of me. The tougher they are, better for me, I rise to the occasion whoever it is. Johan Pérez is another tough fight, he could be tougher than Danny García, you never know. It’s a whole different style, he’s taller but I’m going to be ready for him. I know people are looking at me after the García fight and they expect a lot so all that’s in my head. I want to fight impressively. I don’t want to mess this up, it’s as important as the Danny fight. I’ve trained hard. Not only that, after people thought I won, I want to keep that buzz going and keep showing them that I belong up there.
BoxingScene.com: Having shared a ring with Ruslan Provodnikov and beaten him, were you surprised at his defeat to Chris Algieri?
I was surprised, I saw Chris Algieri fight before, the only thing I questioned was his chin and he surprised me that he stuck in there and pulled it out. I thought he won. Ruslan seemed to change his style a bit and look for one punch. He seems more offensive, no defence and no combination punches. He was a little bit better a couple of fights back.
BoxingScene.com: Who you like to fight Algieri next if you beat Pérez?
I’d like to fight all of them, one by one. I’d like to fight Algieri, it would be a great style match up, a technical fight. I’d love the Danny García rematch if he stays at 140lbs, there’s Lamont [Peterson]. I always said I want to fight the best, I only want tough opponents.
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on Danny Garcia’s next opponent, Rod Salka? He seems to be taking a lot of criticism for the choice of opponent.
I really don’t care what Danny does, I’m focused on Johan and what I’ve got to do to win this fight. But people ask me about it and I read about it and I think this guy is full of shit. He says this and that and he says he’s not going to fight me cause he’s having trouble making weight, it’s all bull. This guy [Salka] isn’t even ranked at 140. In the interview after our fight he said that he’s looking for bigger and better things and it doesn’t look that way to me.
Maybe I was the tune-up gone wrong, and now he needs another tune-up to make himself feel good or something. You can’t lie to the people, everyone sees what he’s doing and I hope he gets crap from people. He needs to step up his game, he’s a champion, you know? He holds all the belts, he did a great job on his way up fighting the best and now that he’s on top he wants the easy way out. You don’t go backwards, you’ve got to keep fighting to stay up there.
He’s the champion, he can say who he wants to fight, it’s his decision. He can’t say Al Haymon or whoever chooses, he has the say-so. The belts are there to be unified, so why not call out the best at 140. Everybody says it’s up to my promoter, even Mayweather. I’ve never been like that in any of my interviews, I always call out people, I never leave it up to my promoter, it’s up to me! It’s the fighter’s decision, they call the shots. You’re the champion, say you want to fight other champions. The champions should be fighting the best.