A loss can sometimes do wonders for a fighter.
When Mauricio Herrera faced WBC, WBA, and The Ring light welterweight champion Danny Garcia last July, not many believed he had a chance of upsetting the defending titleholder.
Garcia was coming off the most impressive victory of his career, a hard-fought, 12-round decision over the favored Lucas Mathysse.
The little-known Herrera (20-4, 7 KOs) had split his last four fights.
The contest turned out to be the most difficult fight in Garcia’s eight-year career.
Herrera used movement and his best weapon--his jab--to frustrate Garcia. He also connected with a variety of punches from different angles.
When the decision was announced as a majority victory for Garcia, nobody, including Herrera, was surprised.
But Herrera had learned something.
“He’s (Garcia) the top one-hundred-forty pound guy and he has a major belt,” Garcia told this writer on the phone a few days ago. “I went in there thinking it would be the toughest fight of my career. My trainer Jose Torres told me it could end up being the easiest fight of my career. You never know—so that’s what I told myself.
“I was in great shape and actually had fun fighting Danny,"he said. "I felt like I belonged. It did give me a lot of confidence. I could feel the confidence during my next fight. The Garcia fight definitely helped me out.”
Herrera, a native of Riverside, Calif., was back in the ring a few months later against tough Venezuelan Johan Perez. He wasn’t one hundred percent that night, having caught a cold a few days before the match. He had the chills and didn’t sleep very well.
Pulling out of the bout was never seriously considered.
“I couldn’t let the fans and Golden Boy (his promoter) down,” Herrera said.
The fight was a see-saw affair. Herrera used his superior left to take the lead, while Perez battled back in the middle rounds.
In the end, it was Herrera who dominated down the stretch to get the victory.
Herrera walked out of the ring that night with the interim world light welterweight belt strapped around his waist.
The hard work and sacrifice had finally paid off.
Before the Garcia bout, Herrera’s biggest claim to fame had been his 2011 points victory against Ruslan Provodnikov.
Herrera doesn’t punch very hard, but his jab is one of the finest in the game.
“I’ve had a good jab from my amateur days,” said Herrera. “My first trainer showed it to me. He told me was the number one punch. He would have me throw it. I was always jabbing in sparring.
“It made my fights easier in my amateur career and beginning of my pro career,"he said. "I know I’m no big puncher—so my jab will save me. I use my jab all the time. It really doesn’t matter. I used the lead right hand against Perez.
On December 13 in Las Vegas, NV, Herrera will return to the ring to face undefeated Jose Benavidez.
“I’m very excited to get back in there,” Herrera said. “I wanted to end the year with another fight. I like to keep busy. It’s a tough fight.
What does Herrera know about his upcoming opponent?
I’ve seen a few of his fights,” said Herrera. “I like his style. He’s a good boxer. He’s tall and uses the ring. So now that I’m fighting him, I started watching even more. I saw a couple of his fights on tape.
“He’s pretty quick, but he hasn’t gone a lot of rounds. He seems like a well-rounded kid. He knows how to use his height and reach well.
Herrera believes his many years in the ring give him an edge over the 21-year-old Benavidez.
“If I’m me, he’ll feel the experience for himself. It will be new for him. I think my rhythm, and the fact that I’ve put in so many more rounds than he has as a pro helps. He’ll feel it. I think he’ll feel it in the late rounds. Everything is going to be new to him. I’ll be comfortable.”
At the ripe old age of 34, does Herrera feel he’s improving?
“I think so. Yeah. I’ve never really talked about my age much,” Herrera said. “I’m actually surprised I’m thirty four. The time has gone by so fast. Every time I go in there I’m feeling younger. I feel like I’m getting smarter and smarter.
“All fights are different," said Herrera. "You have to learn from every fight. I like the weight I’m fighting at now. Things are going well.”