By Ben Jacobs
Cuba’s professional boxers have been receiving more recognition of late for their achievements. At times the general consensus has been that Cubans make for good amateurs but not professionals. That perception has changed, particularly with the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Erislandy Lara and Yuriorkis Gamboa showing their pedigree in recent years.
Yoan Pablo Hernández, however, could arguably claim to be the most successful exponent of this new wave of Cuban professional talent so far, even if he does not receive as much coverage as the Cubans based in the United States.
Hernández turned professional in 2005 in Germany and continues to live and fight in the country. He even speaks with a hint of a German accent whilst conversing in Spanish. The 6ft 4inch cruiserweight is currently preparing for the fourth defence of his IBF title against unbeaten Pole Pawel Kolodziej on March 29 after the original date was put back due to a virus.
“I’m healthy now, you have to be mentally ready and I’m also physically in shape, training, just waiting for the fight,” Yoan told BoxingScene.
Hernández only fought once in 2013 and twice in 2012 so will be looking to get more action under his belt in what is an increasingly interesting division in which he competes.
“I had bad luck last year with an injury,” he explained. “I hope to have more fights this year, not sure how many. Let’s hope so anyway.”
Some observers in the fight game have observed that Hernández lacks power compared to some of his cruiserweight contemporaries, but his recent spectacular knockout win over Alexander Alekseev as well as having dropped Steve Cunningham on several occasions suggests an improvement in that area.
“In training we’ve worked on power, it starts coming automatically when you train hard.”
British boxers Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly will be stepping up to the cruiserweight division and could be potential opponents for Hernández down the line once they establish themselves in the weight class. Unlike a move from bantamweight to super bantamweight which is “only” four pounds, the leap from light heavyweight to cruiserweight is a significant one at 25lbs.
“I wish them both good luck”, Yoan said.
“It’s a big difference in weight between light heavyweight and cruiserweight. But every boxer makes his decisions to try new things and see how it works out. But moving up that amount of weight is a huge change.”
Change is something Hernández had to become accustomed to when he moved to Europe and his decision proved to be a succesful one given what he has acheived since. Could one theory be that a calm life in Germany gives one more perspective than the glitz and glamour of some American cities? Yoan opined:
“If they [Cuban boxers] all concentrate on what they want to do and what they want to achieve there would be a lot more Cubans than what we have at the moment.
“I like being in Germany, I live in a relaxed place. I think over in the US in places like Miami life can be a bit crazy!
“Over here people do recognise me, people approach me for a photo or an autograph, sometimes people stop by in their cars and talk to me. Germany feels like my second home.
“I found it quite difficult to learn German at first and even now there are some words that I find difficult. Sometimes I’m talking and I want to say a word in Spanish but I have to stop myself.”