Francisco A. Salazar

Mauricio Herrera at the crossroads vs. Johan Perez

 

Mauricio Herrera (R) nails Mike Alvarado during their fight on April 14, 2012. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

Mauricio Herrera (R) nails Mike Alvarado during their fight on April 14, 2012. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

 

Mauricio Herrera has every reason to throw in the towel.

He has had a few fights after which he (and other at ringside) thought he should have had his hand raised. Instead, especially in his last fight, he was left wondering what more he could have done to get the victory.

Herrera will not be the first or the last fighter to think a decision should have gone his way. But that does not mean he can not aspire to wear championship gold around his waist.

He will get an opportunity to take at least one step toward that goal on Saturday night.

Herrera will fight Johan Perez in a 12-round junior welterweight bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with Perez’s interim WBA “World” title at stake (THE RING recognizes Danny Garcia, who holds the WBA “Super World” title, as that organization’s sole champion).

The Perez-Herrera bout will open the Showtime Pay Per View telecast headlined by the 154-pound showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Erislandy Lara.

In his last bout, on March 15 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Herrera lost a close and disputed 12-round majority decision to Garcia. A large portion, if not a majority of media and fans thought Herrera did enough to beat Garcia, who was fighting before a partisan crowd.

The loss did not take away what a number of Southern California writers had known about Herrera since his professional debut almost seven years ago. Herrera is a gifted boxer who has faced a number of contenders and world titleholders.

He even holds a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov, despite the fact Herrera suffered a broken orbital bone below his left eye during the fight.

While the decision loss to Garcia did sting, he has moved on and is focused on outboxing and defeating Perez on fight night.

“I’m getting the taste out of my mouth,” Herrera told RingTV in a recent interview. “I have another fight and I have to focus on that one. Taking this fight has made me take the focus away from Danny (Garcia). I’m looking forward to get past that and go for that world title. If I get past Johan Perez, good things will happen.”

“Johan Perez is a tough fighter. I’ve watched some videos on him. He’s going to be a tough fight. He has an interim title and we’re going to go after him. I feel so confident and motivated and I want to impress the people. I’m anxious to get out there and perform well. I’m going to try to go for the stoppage. I’m not a big knockout puncher, but [I know] I can get the decision or the stoppage. As long as it’s impressive, I think [the fans] will be happy.”

Herrera has been battle-tested, which leads some to believe he may be victorious on Saturday night. Not only has he faced solid opposition, which includes Provodnikov, Garcia, Mike Alvarado and Mike Dallas, but he has gotten solid sparring in Southern California.

He resides in Riverside, located about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. 

One of those sparring partners was Tim Bradley. It is said that Bradley used Herrera in preparation for his fight against Provodnikov in March of last year. 

“Bradley and I know each other pretty good in sparring,” said Herrera, who is now promoted by Golden Boy after a number of years with Thompson Boxing. “Sparring against Bradley is good. He’s competitive and it gives me confidence.”

That confidence was somewhat shaken after the Garcia fight. It was not the first time Herrera or the boxing world believed he had been short-changed.

In December of 2009, Herrera though he did enough to defeat former world title holder Mike Anchondo. To the surprise of Herrera, the media, and fans in Santa Ynez, Calif., Herrera lost an eight-round split decision.

Herrera would lose close, but clear decision to Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield in the subsequent months before the loss to Garcia. He takes responsibility for the losses and embraces them as blessings in disguise to prove he is a solid fighter who belongs at the top off the 140-pound division. However, he can not help but think how decisions can hurt a fighter, especially those they felt they won.

“I felt I’ve been robbed a couple of times and it’s in the back of your mind. Every fighter doesn’t like losing. I just want to keep proving to the people that I belong at the top. [I believe] I’m at that level. That’s what keeps me motivated, to keep proving [the naysayers] wrong, and to even show them what they want to see. I want to be the best boxer I can be and give them good fights.”

A win over Perez on Saturday night could bring the opportunity to fight any of the best fighters in the division. Herrera is eager for a rematch with Garcia, or even a fight against Lucas Matthysse. Despite having a win over Provodnikov, he is even willing to fight him again.

“I’ll take Provodnikov on again. I’m not scared of him. I’ll give him a run for his money and even beat him. I know how tough he is, but I’m a tough guy. I know I can hang in there with Provodnikov.”

And that is the mentality Herrera has. He has demonstrated he can compete with and defeat some of the elite fighters in the division.  

But despite his skill and pedigree, at the age of 34 he can not afford a loss. With so much on the line, expect to see the best Mauricio Herrera in the ring.

Then again, that is what he has given throughout his career.

“I felt that I got thrown in quick with the animals from the beginning. Everybody expected me to lose every fight, but I came out on top every time. I got a lot of experience.

“I don’t get tired. I’ve never been stopped, never been hurt, or knocked down. With Johan Perez, it’s no different. I’m going to fight and show everyone what I’m made of. I’m never in a really boring fight. I give it my all. That’s what I’m going to do that day.”

 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing   

 

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