By the script initially handed to him, junior middleweight Joey Hernandez should be living with the outcome of his first world title opportunity by now. Nearly a month has past since March 17, the date on the contract that he signed to face IBF junior middleweight titleholder and fellow Don King Promotions stablemate Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage.
Yet, instead of relishing victory or coming to terms with defeat, the 27-year-old Hernandez (20-1-1, 11 knockouts), of Miami, Fla., is counting down the minutes towards the weigh-in for his fight on Saturday night at the Miami Jai AlaiFronton against Shakir Ashanti – a 16-12 (4 KOs) journeyman from Greensboro, N.C. who hasn’t won two straight in 12 years.
“Imagine signing a contract for a dream to come true and then he didn’t sign his,” said Hernandez, a Cuban-American fan favorite in Miami known as ‘Twinkle Fingers.’ “I took the fight more as an opportunity because I thought my style would beat him. He didn’t want to fight me so he didn’t sign the contract.”
Bundrage, 38, who faces Cory Spinks on June 23 in a rematch of the 2010 effort where he knocked out Spinks in the fifth round to win the belt, told FightNews that he didn’t like the financial terms of the deal to face Hernandez in his backyard so he rejected the offer.
Spinks told the same outlet that, should he regain the belt, “Iwill give Joey the shot he deserves.”
Hernandez, who has won five straight since his only career defeat to fellow Floridian Ed Paredes on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights by a second-round knockout in 2010, says that the road back was difficult from his first defeat, which included wins over former contenders Angel Hernandez, Saul Duran and most recently Elco Garcia, when Hernandez rose off the canvas in round one to win a unanimous decision victory.
Hernandez admits to having some trouble to find motivation for what amounts to a big step down in competition from the world titleholder that he was expecting to face last month, but can see that he is closer to “his dream” than ever before.
‘This shouldn’t be hard after the fights I’ve been through,” said Hernandez. “I’m going to win spectacular with a knockout and hopefully I get a title shot after that.
“I really feel like I have what it takes. I’m a charismatic kid, I have a little bit of ‘Camacho’ in me and I need a chance to get back on national TV.”
On the undercard, Canadian heavyweight Bermane Stiverne (21-1-1, 20 KOs) should find a lot of support from the Southern Florida crowd due to his Haitian roots in his eight-round bout. Stiverne, 33, isn’t a complete stranger to boxing audiences, having competed 10 months ago on an HBO Boxing After Dark card, knocking out retread Ray Austin in ten rounds in what was billed as a WBC heavyweight title elimination bout.
Yet, instead of facing WBC titleholder Vitali Klitschko, the 240-pound Stiverne is facing Willie Herring (13-10-3, 4 KOs), a career cruiserweight who has lost 7 out of his last 9 bouts. Herring weighed in at just 196 pounds for his most recent bout a month ago against Santander Silgado, so expect a physical disparity and an unsettling mismatch.