November 14, 2003

Angel Hernandez: Back To The Drawing Board

By Fiona Manning

The Cinderella-like journey of plucky junior middleweight contender Angel Hernandez took another detour Saturday night as the IBF ranked #6 fighter lost to reigning and defending champion Winky Wright at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This bout, the main co-headlining feature under the Roy Jones-Antonio Tarver light heavyweight battle was entertaining but very one sided.

Hernandez, who beat Colombian JC Candelo in a huge upset last year and rose to national prominence has subsequently lost all his big fights – first a rematch to Candelo and now to Wright.

Wright retained his title by overcoming a gutsy challenge from the Chicago-based Hernandez by unanimous decision.

The southpaw Wright, (46-3, 25 KOs) was very accurate and more aggressive than usual against the bobbing and weaving Hernandez (26-5, 16 KOs), who pressed the action and landed enough shots to make the rounds competitive. Scores were 119-109, 118-110, 117-111.

“I’ll be back but I have some thinking to do,” said a dejected Hernandez who said he would take his talents back to the drawing board.

Angel Hernandez trying to get through Wink Wright’s defense. Photo by Paul Gallegos.

Hernandez is made of stern stuff. His is after all, the product of a very tenacious family. His father was once accepted into the New York Yankees baseball team but died enroute to spring camp in a car accident.

“I will be world champion,” said Hernandez. “I owe it to the memory of my dad.”

In the main event, WBC light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver went ballistic when the ringside judges saw his bout with arch enemy and former champion, Roy Jones as a victory for Jones.

The very hotly contested fight seemed very close – closer than any of Jones’ previous fights. For the first time in his illustrious career, Jones who currently holds the WBA heavyweight championship and must decide within 30 days what to do with the WBC light heavyweight belt, looked beatable.

It was a very sluggish Roy Jones Jr. who entered the ring in less than his usually cut self. Perhaps the dropping of 20 plus pounds caused Jones to look a little dehydrated even before the contest started.

With the victory, Jones regained the title in which he relinquished before becoming a part of the heavyweight championship picture.

Tarver came in glistening with toned muscles and a mouth to match.

Though some ringsiders were split on just who won the bout, once again Tarver’s bullish verbal ways left a bad taste in many observers’ mouths.

Tarver, booed incessantly upon entering the ring, was definitely not the fan favorite during the Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer’s opening introductions. But it was Tarver who turned a deaf ear on the reverberations of booing and wiped any doubt in anyone’s mind that he belonged in that ring with the great Roy Jones Jr.

Tarver opened the fight doing the unthinkable; he backed Jones into a corner and fired at will without a return volley from the usually machine-gun like Jones.

Most in the audience felt that it would be just a matter of time before Jones shook off any ring rust he might have had. The outcome should never have been in doubt.

Jones was in serious trouble a couple of times and looked surprised when, instead of being scared, Tarver’s volleys didn’t let up after the first round. He continued to pummel Jones for the first three rounds.

Jones attempted to cut the ring, but Tarver was too slick. As Tarver continued to land an enormous amount of combinations to the head and sides of his perplexed opponent, Jones attempted to counter, but often looked slow and having trouble with is footwork.

It was in the middle wounds that Jones picked up the pace and edged the fight in his direction.

Tarver pressed the action and took the fight to the man. Tarver’s combinations dictated the pace throughout. Without a doubt, many of Tarver’s punches landed on the gloves of Jones’ defense. But some didn’t. Jones’ face and eyes were noticeably puffy and red by the end of the seventh round - a real first for the man frequently described as the best pound for pound fighter in the world.

When the scores were read, the crowd as well as Tarver knew that it wasn’t going to go well. Judge Jerry Roth had it 114-114. When Michael Buffer read off Judge Glen Hamada’s score of 117-111 the crowd let off a collective sigh of relief in believing that Tarver got his just due. Finally, Judge Dave Harris’ score was closer but still acceptable at 116-112. But it was Jones who somehow managed to get the nod and not Tarver.

Jones had never in his career heard an audience so irate with a decision. Jones pranced around the ring holding his new belts and adorning them around his waist and neck. Tarver stood in the corner in disbelief.

After the fight Tarver stated that, “I feel disappointed-I won this fight. I waited for the opportunity to fight and I think I won. You saw for yourself, I beat the man. His face tells the story. I hurt Roy tonight. I showed defense and effort. Jones is a crafty fighter.

“People saw that for themselves tonight. Tarver should be considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters. I threw beautiful combinations. I won the fight. I should have been awarded the championship.”

Plans are already afoot for a February rematch – if Tarver can let his attorneys do the talking for him.

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