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Hernandez inspiring in defeat

04
Apr

Carlos Hernandez (right) lost a decision to Vicente Escobedo on Saturday in Austin, Texas, but but won the hearts of the fans with his courageous effort. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

AUSTIN, Texas – Never should the loser of a fight be more proud.

Carlos Hernandez, 38 and a veteran of so many ring wars over his 17-year career, reached into the past and found the strength to fight one more grueling battle against a 27-year-old former Olympian on the undercard of the Edwin Valero-Antonio Pitalua fight Saturday night.

Hernandez, in his second fight of a comeback after a two-year layoff, was knocked down in each of the first two rounds and appeared to be doomed. He seemed to be too slow, too old for a quick, young fighter like Vicente Escobedo (20-1, 13 knockouts).

However, the old man wasn’t about to go out like that. He found his rhythm and put up a spirited fight beginning in the third round, when he was cut badly above his left eye, and held his own in thrilling toe-to-toe exchanges from then on.

Hernandez, his face badly beaten, lost much of the sight in both eyes because of the cut and swelling but never stopped throwing punches. He also tired in the later rounds but, again, he wasn’t about to quit.

In the end, he lost on the cards 96-91, 94-93, 95-91 but won the hearts of everyone who witnessed the fight. The fans in Austin gave him a standing ovation after the final bell for his above-and-beyond effort.

Hernandez (43-8-1, 24 KOs) said immediately afterward that he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire – but it’d be a heck of a way to walk away.

“It could be my last fight,” said Hernandez, fighting back tears. “If it is, everyone will know that I went out with my head held high. I’m proud of my career. I was a guy who didn’t have the most skill but I had a lot of heart.”

He certainly did.

In another featured bout, Rolando Reyes was a late replacement against Julio Diaz but hardly fought like one.

Reyes put Diaz down twice in the fifth round, the second time for good, to pull off a stunning upset of the two-time titleholder in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout.

Reyes, who replaced an injured Joel Casamayor, did the most-significant damage with a straight right and then put Diaz down with a follow-up flurry. Diaz was able to get up but went down again under a barrage of punches and the fight was stopped.

To that point, the fight was tactical, even boring. The crowd booed several times.

Reyes (31-4-2, 20 KOs) now positions himself as a possible lightweight contender. He has never had a title shot.

Diaz (36-5, 26 KOs) has lost two of his past four fights and will have to rebuild his career to become a contender again.

In another lightweight bout scheduled for 10 rounds, Michael Katsidis and Austin resident Jesus Chavez engaged in a frenetic brawl that ended when Chavez quit after seven rounds.

Chavez (44-5, 30 KOs) was bleeding from a deep cut on his hairline — the result of a head butt in the fourth round — and had taken a lot of punches.

Chavez, a former titlholder, might be finished. He's lost three of his last seven fights.

“I was tired and I wanted the fight stopped,” he said. “I couldn't see and was getting hit too much.”

In typical fashion for the Australian, Katsidis (25-2, 21 KOs) also took a lot of punishment but never stopped throwing hard, accurate punches.

In other bouts, Adrien Broner (8-0, six KOs) of Cincinnati, a former U.S. Olympian, stopped Angel Rodriguez (3-3-1) at 27 seconds of the fourth round of a scheduled six-round lightweight bout.

A scheduled six-round junior welterweight bout between prospect Keith Thurman (8-0, eight KOs) and Francisco Garcia (5-2, four KOs) was declared a no-decision after Garcia was cut by an accidental head butt in the first round and couldn’t continue.

Ricky Lopez (3-0, two KOs) of Denver survived a first-round knockdown to defeat Felipe Ramirez (0-3) by a split decision in a four-round junior featherweight bout.

Ricardo Castillo (37-7, 25 KOs) of Mexico, the brother of Jose Luis Castillo, defeated Andres Ledesma (15-13-1, 10 KOs) of Miami by a unanimous decision in an eight-round junior featherweight bout.

And Jermell Charlo (7-0, four KOs) of Houston outpointed Carlos Garcia (3-3-1, three KOs) of Puerto Rico in a six-round junior middleweight bout.

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