April 2, 2004

Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez: Boxing’s Most Wanted Man

By Fiona Manning

In a sport where fighters will do almost anything to get the big fight, the big payday, the biggest fish; Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez is in the unusual position of being boxing’s most wanted man.

The IBF 130 pound champion is waiting patiently for the contracts to be exchanged on the biggest fight of his career and one boxing fans everywhere are drooling over: a unification with newly-crowned WBC champion Erik “El Terrible” Morales set for July in LA at the outdoor Home Depot arena.

It’s a fight Top Rank’s Bob Arum, the promoter of both fighters will make happen.

And it’s a fight that is “Not a fight between a hawk and a pigeon, but a fight between two real, true champions,” said Famoso’s trainer, esteemed boxing legend Amilcar Brusa.

Meanwhile, Hernandez keeps reading he’s allegedly fighting Marco Antonio Barrera. Then of course, there is his worthy, very entitled, mandatory challenger Robbie Peden waiting patiently in the wings.

“I don’t care who I fight because it won’t be pretty for any of them,” Hernandez said.

Three weeks ago, Peden successfully defeated Nate Campbell for the privilege of a shot at Hernandez’ crown, but said Hernandez, “A unification takes precedence over a mandatory challenger.”

Famoso, who is 40-3-1, with 24 KOs, plans to attend the Olympic Games in Greece as a special guest and is excited about that. Obviously, however, fighting Morales is everything he has worked for since he turned pro 12 years ago.

“I read on the internet that I’m fighting Barrera which just isn’t happening,” he said. “At least they’re putting my name out there.”

Hernandez has been the patient, avid viewer to the recent, dramatic changing fortunes in his own division in which he finally being acknowledged as being a serious player.

Famoso says that Peden is an extremely deserving challenger and that he will get his shot - after he defeats Morales in their unification battle.

“It’ll be doubly nice for Robbie then, he’ll get a shot at two titles.”

It’s not inconceivable, considering Morales’ hard-ground victory over a one-armed Jesus Chavez last month.

“I thought Morales showed strength, but Chavez showed more heart than people thought he had. He kept going like a bull. He was not going to be denied. It was certainly a surprise after the way he fought [Floyd] Mayweather [Jr].

“If he hadn’t torn his right rotator cuff, who knows, maybe I’d be fighting Chavez.”

Erik Morales however, is “The fight I want. It’s supposed to be the best fight in my division and it is. I am fighting the best Mexican fighter in the world today.”

At the La Brea Academy where Famoso has trained for all his fights, he’s been getting his ring legs back after taking time off to spend time with his three-month old son Christian, who along with his mother Veronica Hernandez, accompanies his dad to the gym daily.

Famoso’s trainer, the formidable 82 years young Amilcar Brusa waited patiently for the Family Hernandez to turn up for training.

Christian is a cuddly, cute, miniature replica of his father, right down to the cheek dimples.

“Look,” Famoso said, pushing up his wriggling son’s sleeve. “Look at his biceps. He’s been training!”

Carlos and Veronica tried for a long time to have a baby so Christian is an especially sweet victory.

“The birth wasn’t painful at all,” said his father as Veronica smacked his arm.

“Easy for you to say,” she said. “There’s a reason they call it labor!”

The day we visited, Famoso chose to break the news of his new plans to Señor Brusa. Next week, he plans to go to El Salvador where he is revered for being the country’s first-ever champion in any sport.

He and Veronica have already forged strong ties with El Salvador’s new president Tony Saca, who has already met Christian and had photos taken with him.

Famoso has an arena named after him in San Salvador and plans to ultimately defend his championship – or two – there at some point. For now he will just spend time there getting ready for “El Terrible.”

“I plan to spend two weeks training, running on the beach there, getting a tan,” he said. “It’s Miami type weather. It’ll be a chance to clear my head. Then I want to go to the mountains, maybe in Palm Springs or Big Bear and complete my training.

“I don’t want to train in Los Angeles this time. I don’t want any distractions. No excuses, but I felt I wasn’t in the best shape possible for my last fight with Steve Forbes. I felt tired and drained and I just want to go away and focus.”

It’s unusual to hear this considering how hard the fighter trained for his first title defense against Forbes, which he won convincingly (it was stopped in the 10th due to cuts).

“Oh, I trained hard, but I live two hours from the gym and just the drive here would make me tired. I’d get here after battling traffic and be exhausted. Then on the drive home, I’d get hungry. I’d have a small snack with me at the gym, but it wasn’t enough.

“By the time I got home, I would be so tense and so tired all I would want to do was sleep. I would be hungry but I’d be too tired to eat! I love LA but the traffic just sucks.”

Hernandez is mulling over his options, all of which sound intriguing.

“I’ve had a couple of offers of gyms in Palm Springs and Indio, so it looks like the Family Hernandez is on the move.

“I’m not one of those fighters who can leave the family for two or three months. My sacrifice is leaving my home.

“I need them and they need me, especially my boy. I don’t want to miss a thing with him. I don’t want to miss a single smile. Besides, my family gives me strength.”

Señor Brusa is another source of his power. Brusa is a tough tactician. Currently training Famoso and Miguel Santos, he has a small desk ringside with two exercise books bearing the fighters’ names. These books hold incriminating evidence on each man.

They meticulously list their weight, attitude, training regimen, roadwork and diet for each day of training. You cannot lie to Brusa. He just knows.

This is, after all, the man who took the great middleweight champion Carlos Monzon to the world title.

If Famoso ever tells his wife he wishes to stray from his fight diet, she wields a mighty weapon: she threatens to send him to stay at La Brea with Brusa. He was kissing Her-nandez as we spoke, but Brusa has been known to make grown men cry. Just ask Omar Weis.

Brusa has a plaque on his desk which reads: El Boxea-dor que hace lo que él quiere, es víctima de sus propios errores: The boxer who does what he wants to do is the victim of his own mistakes.

Señor Brusa cast a practiced, critical eye over Hernandez, the other eye pointedly shoots at the clock as Famoso answers questions. Then both eyes swiveled to the Books of Torture on his desk. What would he write down today?

“I saw Robbie Peden’s fight with Nate Campbell and I’ll be honest. I thought Peden was winning every round until the one in which he knocked out Campbell,” Hernandez said, propped against the ropes of the gym ring.

Actually, he was practically lying down in the ring. Brusa looked like he wanted to ask him for 60 push-ups.

“Peden was getting very badly hurt. When Campbell dropped his hands and invited that punch, I thought, ‘what an idiot.’ You don’t do something like that with a big puncher like Peden. Fighters who underestimate their opponents like that, make very foolish mistakes.”

You can guarantee Hern-andez will not be making any foolish mistakes against Morales.

He and Brusa know they have a good chance of winning and are already plotting the path of war.

“This is an interesting fight, a very interesting fight,” said Brusa. “I saw how it was in the fight between Morales and Chavez. Chavez gave him nothing but problems from the third round on and he only had one arm.

“Morales has two arms and Famoso has two arms, but Famoso will prevail.”

Trainer and fighter hugged. Training was on. Brusa wanted less talk and more jabs.

They will be in their corner with mitt man and second, Eric Brown come July, but the team is looking for a new cutman since Miguel Diaz (his usual cutman) also works with Morales.

“It’s no big deal to me,” Hernandez said. “None of it is. I mean, lookit: look where I am. Guys like Erik Morales are fighters I have revered and followed and cheered on; now I’m going to be in the ring with them. They better not underestimate me though because I will shock them.”

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