Javier Hernandez has seen the success fighters from San Antonio, Texas, especially Jesse Rodriguez, have had in recent years.
The unbeaten featherweight now wants to create his own path towards success, including one day defending a world title belt in his hometown.
Hernandez will face Cesar Cantu tonight at the Alzafar Shrine in his hometown of San Antonio. The six-round junior lightweight bout will headline a 10-bout card promoted by Triple A Promotions.
The 19-year-old Hernandez (9-0, 6 knockouts), last fought on March 5, stopping Michael Haynes in the third round. The win over Haynes took place over five months after Hernandez stopped Bruno Pardo in the second round.
Hernandez made his pro debut at the age of 17, and he has seen his development move forward, sparring some of the top fighters and prospects in the San Antonio area, but also traveling to Las Vegas and working with fighters in the gyms of that area. All the sparring at the Mayweather Gym and Bones Adams Gym sharpened the skills of Hernandez, as well as giving him more confidence.
“I was sparring (prospect) Omar Juarez and (former WBO world bantamweight titleholder) John Riel Casimero,” Hernandez told Boxingscene earlier this week. “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but the more I sparred against them, the more confidence I gained. I just kept thinking to myself that I cannot look bad because this is the opportunity and key to open doors in the sport. I had someone record my sparring and training and it went to (Top Rank chairman) Bob Arum. I thought I did good. It gave me more confidence that I did more than hold my own when I was out there in Vegas.”
All the sparring forced Hernandez to be more aggressive against fighters like Casimero and Juarez, but he has always been a fighter that comes forward and throws an abundance of punches.
If there is a current fighter he would compare himself to, it would be a world champion in his weight class.
“I think of myself more of a brawler,” said Hernandez, who is trained by Rick Nunez. “I keep coming forward, sort of like (WBO featherweight titleholder Emanuel) Navarrete. He’s a true brawler. I stay in the pocket and attack the body. I can box. I know how to use my jab. I know how to use my ring generalship, but I prefer to wear down my opponents to the body. I prefer to brawl and apply pressure.”
Tonight will mark Hernandez’s five time fighting in San Antonio. His first four fights were held in Matamoros, Mexico, which is on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border from the city of Brownsville.
Hernandez is compelled to fight as often as he can in his hometown, though he does understand he would need to fight across the country or abroad on bigger platforms. Fighting in San Antonio means giving his family and friends a thrill seeing him in person, but also gives him validation that he is moving forward in the sport, despite naysayers who thought he would not have a successful amateur or, so far, professional career.
“It means a lot to fight in San Antonio,” said Hernandez. “I was told I was not the best amateur or there were a lot of people that avoided helping me before I turned pro. I want everyone who doubted me to watch my fights so I could prove them wrong in these fights. My family, friends, and fans attend my fights in large numbers. It doesn’t get any better than that. San Antonio is the number one spot.”
As long as he keeps winning, and doing so in impressive fashion, Hernandez hopes he could sign on with a major promoter. He tunes into televised fight cards or streams and believes he is capable of beating fighters in the same weight class.
“I tune into those Top Rank and DAZN cards on Saturday. I watch fighters in my weight class and I believe I can do as well, if not better. I know some of them have more experience than me, but I’ve developed a pro style over the last year and a half. I believe I can get a lot better.”
Just as Jesse Rodriguez was able to make the first defense of the WBC world junior bantamweight title by stopping Srisaket Sor Rungvisai on June 25, Hernandez hopes he can do the same one day.
After tonight, he wants to face more-advanced and more-experienced fighters that will bring out the best in him.
“My goal is to win a world title and defend it in San Antonio. I want that fight to be bigger than what Jesse did. I want to test myself. I want fights that challenge me. I don’t want to be babied. I don’t want excuses. 126 pounds is my weight. It’s a great weight for me.
“I’m a promotional free agent. I hope to get noticed by Bob Arum or Eddie Hearn. They might not know who I am, but they’ll see who I am later.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing