By Steve Kim. This Saturday night from the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, lightweight Jose “El Loco” Hernandez faces Robert Osiobe in a scheduled 10-round affair. And it’s his third outing with manager Frank Espinoza, who inked him to a deal earlier this year. There was a time when Hernandez, who has a mark of 13-5-1 (5), would be facing a prospect on his home turf. Not anymore. The bottom line is now he will be managed and guided as a prospect, not just a faceless opponent. In other words, he wants to be a “contenda’”; he wants to have a chance.
It’s why he signed on the dotted line with Espinoza, who has a history of developing fighters and handling world champions like Enrique Sanchez, Martin Castillo and Israel Vazquez. The days of Hernandez just taking any fights that come his way are over.
“I would say I had to take an easier road because all the fights that I’ve taken, that I’ve lost - I’ve won in my eyes,” he said a few days ago. “But it doesn’t always go that way. You have to have someone really important behind you. With Frank Espinoza, I have that.”
Sometimes fighters just take assignments for the money (after all, this is why they call it “prizefighting” and everyone has bills to pay) and others do it when they are simply mismanaged - or not managed at all. Hernandez says he has never taken a bout just for the purse but that “I really wanted to be the fighter to be the underdog and I knew that I was taking fights on short notice and I would come into those fights hoping to be the opponent to give a guy his first loss - because all my losses are pretty much against undefeated fighters. I came into the ring hoping to be the guy that comes out on top.”
It sounds ambitious in theory but really foolhardy as it relates to developing a fighter. Perhaps early losses may not matter in the MMA/UFC but in boxing, early (and multiple) losses can kill your value in the open market and how you are perceived by the networks, which can then limit your opportunities in the long run. Take too many losses at the beginning of a career and you can easily get branded as a perennial B-side, a guy who is brought in to provide a tough night at the office but will never get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the scorecards.
As he began his career punching for pay back in 2004, Hernandez didn’t have a real manager. He explains, “I had the guy that basically raised me [Jorge Galvan]; he raised me from when I was a kid in the world of boxing. You could pretty much say he was like a second dad. I had my dad at home and everything but boxing took me everywhere. He took me everywhere with him and he was there the whole time.”
But while Hernandez’s “take all comers” mentality was making him one of the most seasoned young fighters in the sport, it wasn’t necessarily allowing him to develop a real career. Again, the money in this business is made by those who win fights, capture titles and get television dates. But going 0-4-1 as he did between February of 2010 to March of 2011 (where he faced the likes of Sharif Bogere, Oscar Meza, Michael Perez, Mickey Bey and Luis Ramos, who had a combined record of 75-4-1) changed Hernandez’s perspective.
He says, “I made the decision at the end of 2010 because I saw that we were taking some dumb fights and [Galvan] would tell me, ‘We gotta stick to the plan; to be on top, we gotta beat the best,’ this and that. I was stepping into the ring with the best but when it came down to it, I was losing a lot of the close decisions and to me, when Frank called me, that opened my eyes. I know [Galvan]’s been with me for my whole career but I have to think about myself and my future.”
Ironically, Espinoza became interested in Hernandez after Ramos eked out a close decision in their fight. Ramos is handled by the Espinoza Boxing Club. It was a tight contest but it was Ramos fighting near his hometown of Santa Ana in the Orange County Fairgrounds. He was also the one promoted by Golden Boy. He was the connected fighter in this instance.
“I remember thinking to myself, I really like this guy,” recalled Espinoza. “Even though he had some losses, I knew what type of fight we were getting into and that’s exactly what he gave us. I knew right there I was interested in him and he was still just 24 at that point. Time was on our side and if he was willing to do it our way, we could rebuild this career and get somewhere.”
For Espinoza - who also manages well-regarded prospects like Antonio Orozco and Ronny Rios - that meant pulling back the pace at which Hernandez was going and getting him used to winning on a consistent basis.
“See, everyone talks of taking tough fights all the time. Yeah, OK, that’s fine but that’s not always the appropriate thing to do in terms of the fighter. And the money he was getting for those fights, to me, did not justify the risks he was taking. Again, as a fighter, I’m glad he had that mentality that he would fight anyone, anywhere; it’s the manager’s responsibility to put him in the best position possible to succeed,” he explained. “My job is to make sure he reaches whatever potential he has. I can’t fight for any fighter but I can put them in the most favorable spots. There will be time and place for the really tough fights. My track record speaks for itself; it’s a solid history of developing boxers.”
A manager plays many roles, from accepting or vetoing opponents and negotiating the best contractual terms to finding the right promoter in which to situate a fighter and providing financial support to a boxer so he can make ends meet while they build a more lucrative career. Hernandez says his arrangement with Espinoza has “given me time to get ready for my fights like I need to, like I should have been getting ready back then. I wasn’t given the time to get ready; I wasn’t getting that option. They’d call; I’d take the fight and that was it, pretty much. Three weeks, four weeks and now, I have Frank Espinoza. I get a month-and-a-half, two months before I even fight. So I’ll be ready for fights now.”
Boxers think and fight for today. Managers - at least the ones who know what they’re doing - think of tomorrow and beyond.
“Sometimes my job is about saying no, whether it’s a certain fight or going to a certain location. And the fighters may not like it but you just hope they have trust in you,” said Espinoza. Since hooking up with the manager, Hernandez has faced the likes of Jaime Orrantia (who had a record of 26-24-5) and Peter Oluoch (who had a mark of 11-5-2). Osiobe comes in with a ledger of 12-5-4 (6). For Espinoza, getting his fighter rolling again is the immediate goal. “We just want to get him in the habit of winning again, building back some confidence and keeping him active. And I know this for a fact; it’s much easier to get a fighter on TV that has a good record, who’s on a winning streak, than a guy whose record isn’t so good. Also, generally, the money is better too. So that’s what we’re doing here; were almost starting over with Jose.”
And that’s fine with Hernandez.
“It’s a new beginning,” said Hernandez, who hails from Ft. Worth, Texas. “I get to reinvent myself; I get to show everyone that I belong at the top. The Frank Espinoza era, it’s a new beginning for me.”
Espinoza confirmed to Maxboxing that a bout on Showtime between Mares and the slick-boxing Anselmo Moreno for October 13th at the MandalayBay is very close to being a done deal. This is a very good match-up; Mares, who has as strong a strength-of-schedule as anyone in boxing recently and holds the WBC 122-pound title, will be against one of the most respected pure boxers today in Moreno.
On many nights, it would be the focus of the boxing world but unfortunately on this date, it will be largely overshadowed by the doubleheader at the HomeDepotCenter in Carson, California that sees Nonito Donaire vs. Toshiaki Nishioka and Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado on HBO.
Well, at least this “Cold War” between Golden Boy and Top Rank is bringing us some good fights.
HARD KNOCK FLURRIES
Espinoza also inked lightweight hopeful Robert Rodriguez, who just recently KO’d Fernando Carcamo at the Commerce Casino (
)...Ticket info for the Randall Bailey-Devon Alexander fight on Sept. 8th at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas is as follows: Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $75, $50 and $25, along with a limited number of VIP suite seats priced at $150, go on sale on Friday, August 17 at noon PT and may be purchased at the Hard Rock Hotel Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.Ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000...And tickets for that aforementioned Home Depot Center card on Oct. 13th go on sale today: Priced at $150, $75 and $35, tickets can be purchased online at AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849 as well as The Home Depot Center Box Office (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Suites are available by calling 1-877-604-8777. For discounts on groups of 10 or more, call 1-877-234-8425 or visit www.aegtickets.com...It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Bynum flourishes in Philly as the clear, first option...The stuff on “Hard Knocks” with Chad Johnson and Joe Philbin was riveting. Again, the summer months going into football season aren’t the same without this series on HBO...I’ll bet Johnson wishes he never would’ve paused his game of “Call to Duty” now, huh?...Oct. 27th was ruled out as a possible reschedule date for Tavoris Cloud vs. Jean Pascal because Showtime is planning a StrikeForce broadcast that night...I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing