Genaro Hernandez, 1984-1998, 38-2-1 (17 KOs)
Titles: WBA super featherweight (November 22, 1991-November 12, 1994, vacated), WBC super featherweight (March 22, 1997-October 3, 1998)
First Full Year of IBHOF Eligibility: 2004
Like Hall of Fame 130-pound champion Brian Mitchell, the worth of Hernandez’s career can only be appreciated by looking at the whole rather than the individual parts. At 5-11 he towered over his opponents yet he was surprisingly effective in trench warfare. He was a grinder rather than a knockout hitter, but he struck with enough force to gain opponents’ respect. He wasn’t the prettiest boxer or the most sensational slugger; he was a lunch pail guy who clocked in, did his work to the best of his ability and came out a winner almost every single time – even at the top levels of his chosen sport. While there are plenty of Hall of Fame plaques reserved for the most sensational of performers, there also should be spots for those who practiced general excellence, and in that sense “Chicanito” deserves his moment before the voters.
Points In His Favor: His 11 defenses in two reigns is among the most in division history, and stands up well with Hall of Famers whose resumes relied heavily on their junior lightweight reigns – Mitchell (12), Azumah Nelson (11), Flash Elorde (10) and Alexis Arguello (eight). He captured his first belt on enemy soil (KO 9 Daniel Londas in France) and his second title on somewhat more neutral turf (W 12 Azumah Nelson in Corpus Christi). Also, on three occasions he retained his belt outside the U.S. (W 12 Masuaki Takeda and KO 6 Yuji Watanabe in Japan, W 12 Jimmy Garcia in Mexico City).
His most notable victories came against former longtime 118-pound king Raul Perez (TD 1, KO 8), Jorge Paez (a non-title KO 8), veteran warhorse Rufugio Rojas (a pre-title KO 6), the 25-1-1 Carlos “Famous” Hernandez (W 12) and Carlos Gerena (W 12), who had won 28 of his previous 29 fights coming in. But his signature victory came against Nelson because not only did it showcase Hernandez’s considerable skill, it also burnished the content of his character into the memories of those who witnessed it.
After Hernandez won the first seven rounds with ease, Nelson landed an after-the-bell blow to Hernandez’s throat. Given the option to accept a disqualification victory, Hernandez refused, then went on to win by a split decision that should have been unanimous. Few fighters would have risked victory to uphold an ideal but Hernandez was one such man.
What Hurts His Cause: Like 2012 IBHOF Inductee Hearns, Hernandez is better remembered for his two defeats than his 38 victories. His turf war against fellow Californian Oscar de la Hoya ended with Hernandez ignominiously surrendering after six competitive rounds due to a shattered nose. Then, in the final fight of his career, Hernandez and his team decided to call it a day after eight rounds with a 21-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr. His resignations in the face of extreme danger will count against him with some voters.