<
>

Nico Hernandez to stay close to home for second fight too

Nico Hernandez, the 2016 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, is set for his second professional fight, and it will be another one in front of his hometown fans.

Hernandez will take on Jose Rodriguez in a six-round flyweight fight on June 17 at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas, only about 10 miles from his hometown of Wichita, Kansas.

Hernandez's fight will headline the KO Night Boxing-promoted card, which will air live on CBS Sports Net (10 p.m. ET), the promotional company announced Monday.

"I feel that there will be even more people there this fight than at my pro debut," Hernandez said. "I live only a 10- to 15-minute drive from Hartman Arena, north of Wichita."

The 21-year-old Hernandez (1-0, 1 KO) made his professional debut in a junior bantamweight bout on March 25 and scored a fourth-round knockout of Patrick Gutierrez in another fight not far from home at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas.

"I worked hard on body punching for my pro debut. I didn't do that in the amateurs, and I'm getting used to switching to southpaw," Hernandez said. "Both were in our game plan and successful in my first fight. I'm excited to get right back in the ring, especially at home. Our plan is to fight every two to three months and have a total of four fights this year."

Gutierrez was 0-2 when Hernandez faced him. Rodriguez (2-0, 2 KOs), 29, a Mexico native fighting out of Markesan, Wisconsin, at least has a winning record. He is also trained by former lightweight contender Angel Manfredy. Rodriguez has scored first-round knockouts in both of his pro bouts, though both opponents were winless.

"Gutierrez was the perfect opponent for Nico's pro debut. He was tough, but now it's time to step it up a little against a 2-0 opponent with two knockouts," KO Night Boxing promoter John Andersen said. "Nico is starting to climb the ladder to get him where we want him to go. We need to move him quicker than an average fighter, largely due to his amateur background, and he'll probably have only one more six-round bout after this before moving him up to eight.

"I thought he looked a little nervous in his pro debut at the start, but that's expected for a fighter making his pro debut at home in front of nearly 3,200 people, and after that he was great. We couldn't have asked for anything more, and he did get in some rounds that will be helpful. This fight will be close to where Nico lives. Nico really connects to kids in the community, often speaking at local schools, and this is the perfect opportunity for parents to bring their children to watch him fight on a weekend night."

Lewis Hernandez, Nico's father and trainer, said he expects to see improvements from his son in his second pro bout.

"Nico showed his body punching, and he switched around a little to fight left-handed, which weren't part of his boxing style in the amateurs," he said. "Fans will see the fighter Nico really is, but this fight, he'll get back to boxing more. I told him that he needed to go to the body as a professional fighter but that each punch doesn't have to be as hard. Sometimes I need to remind him of that because he's a fighter at heart.

"He's always well-conditioned, so he can go rounds without a problem. I want him to be fast and elusive to take away his opponents' body and then, in later rounds, go back to boxing. He fought at 115 pounds [in his debut], but he'll be back to 112 for this fight. Nico was strong at 115, and he'll be very strong at flyweight."