By Bill Green at the scale
Nico Hernandez 115.6 vs. Jozef Atjai (Late weigh in)
Javonte Stark 146.4 vs. Cesar Soriano 148
Chazz Macias 140 vs. Corey Roberts 139.4
Maurice Byarm 230.4 vs. Richard Carmack 364
Jeff Sturm 140 vs. Brian Clements (Late weigh in)
Akeem Black 149.2 vs. Derrick Clayton 151
Venue: Hartman Arena, Park City, Kansas
Promoter: KO Night Boxing
2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist Nico Hernandez (3-0, 2 KOs) spoke to Fightnews.com® about Saturday night’s clash against Jozsef “Little Red” Ajtai (19-9, 12 KOs) for the IBA Americas flyweight title at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas.
Fightnews: Hello champ, how is your health and training camp?
Hernandez: I’m 100% and ready to go. We work hard in the gym every day. The difference in camp is we go in a lockdown mind set. We work hard so that the fight is easy.
Fightnews: Your boxing resume is quite impressive. People will forever remember you as winning a Bronze Medal in the Olympics in 2016. What they forget is everything in between. Wow multiple silver glove, Jr Olympic, Nationals and International championships. Despite all that amateur success, do you deep down still feel that your style is suited for the pros?
Hernandez: Actually yes, I was just saying that the other day. I mean me and my father we always knew the time would come. With the smaller and more compact gloves at the pro level, I really feel like my style of fighting along with my power will continue to be a problem for my opponents.
Fightnews: Speaking of the pros and your experience, your opponent Jozsef Ajtai boasts a record of 19-9 with 12 ko’s. While no disrespect you are heading into just your 4th fight. Do you believe that his experience is irrelevant and that you already see yourself ready for these type of opportunities, especially considering the no headgear rule at the elite level?
Hernandez: Yes, I believe I’m ready for a world title shot right now. We are fighting for the IBA vacant title so this fight has added meaning to it too. I have fought a lot of similar styles overseas and am more than confident knowing I can handle whatever he brings. Like you mentioned I know what it’s like to have the headgear off, this is nothing to me, no surprises. I know what I need to do and I’m prepared to do it.
Fightnews: Your reputation as being a top prospect is well known, but what fight fans don’t realize is where you came from, how hard it was to get there, and how important it is to put your city on the map. Can you describe in your own words your struggles to get here?
Hernandez: I mean ya, I grew up on the poor side of town. We struggled but we kept grinding. Nothing was easy, we worked hard to able to have the things and opportunities to keep fighting. We went through a lot both mentally and physically. So when I fight in my city, it’s the opportunity to give hope, to give the city something to root for, to be their hero. It’s a blessing for my friends, family to get behind me, i truly feel invincible with their support.
Fightnews: Speaking of family, your father remains your head trainer. My understanding is that he has been there since day 1. Sometimes father and son boxing careers prove to be disastrous or they simply outgrow one another, such as Floyd and his father or even Roy and his and so on. Why does the team of Lewis and Nico Hernandez not fit into that category?
Hernandez: It’s true he has been there since day one as a father, and when I laced them up at 9 there he was. We have bonded through this sport and we are close outside of it. When my mom was not in the picture for a while, my dad remained. We have this special connection, he serves so many roles, my trainer, father and best friend.
Fightnews: So basically you the tough times and the journey throughout have made you both battle-tested. Most fight families have a motto or something they live by, what is the Hernandez’?
Hernandez: It’s not where you are, but rather where you are going. Another one we always say is all the way from the bottom to the top.
Fightnews: Ups and downs are definitely part of the sport. Have you noticed that in the beginning of your success, people were celebrating even through you a parade, but now after some success, the so-called haters have shown up? If so, what would you like to say to them as you head into another main event and potentially sold-out arena on Saturday night?
Hernandez: I have noticed, the haters have appeared and I do my best to please everyone. I take pride on living the right life, to be a role model, to do the right things. I’m not sure as to why they are there but I just ignore it or use it as motivation in the gym. I have proved them wrong my whole amateur career and accomplished a lot along the way, I plan on doing the same as a pro. They always say, just keep winning. I plan on taking care of business on Saturday night.
Fightnews: I forgot to tell you. When I covered Crawford’s last fight back in August, former Olympian and teammate, Shakur Stevenson stated “Niko, that’s my homie, tell him what’s up when you see him.” That 2016 team is making quite the waves now all as pros. Despite not winning a large number of medals and or the prestige gold medal, do you believe that the best is yet to come?
Hernandez: Wow, ya me and Shakur talk a lot as well as Karlos Balderas. Of course, we may not have exceeded all our expectations or brought home all the hardware but that team has plenty of star power, just watch.
Fightnews: I agree 100%, so far Antonio Vargas is 5-0, Shakur Stevenson 4-0, Karlos Balderas 3-0, Charles Conwell 6-0, Mikaela Mayer 3-0 and Claressa Shields already is a World champion at 5-0. What a group, While you guys are all close, I hear that you are all quite competitive. What kind of a statement do you plan on making on Saturday night?
Hernandez: To fight my fight, be victorious. Break him down, show him that I’m plenty seasoned and that I’m simply a class above.
Fightnews: Last couple questions, the first one is are you aware that Ajtai went the distance with 2 x gold medalist Zou Shiming.
Hernandez: Ya, I did notice and I definitely want to beat him better than Zou did and I feel like I’m fully capable of doing it as well. He has never faced an American style like mine, he is coming to my backyard and I hear he moves a lot. My power at this weight is overlooked and I truly believe that once I touch him with my power, he will run like the rest.