Mauricio Herrera 2016

Photo by Al Applerose

Mauricio Wants Provodnikov in May

By David A. Avila

Wherever Mauricio Herrera travels whether it’s in downtown Riverside or in Puerto Rico fans call the junior welterweight prizefighter the real world champion.

“I’m the people’s champion,” says Herrera half joking but with truth seared into the statement.

It all stems from a fight two years ago against undefeated Danny “Swift” Garcia that was televised worldwide. Most everyone watching thought Herrera easily won the fight. The judges thought otherwise. That was March 2014 in Puerto Rico.

Now, Herrera (22-5, 7 Kos) awaits a contract to fight a rematch with feared slugger Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 Kos). It’s expected to take place in May in Las Vegas. Their first encounter was the Fight of the Year in 2011. Herrera won by decision but it was a brutal fight that saw both emerge bruised and battered.

“My family doesn’t want that fight,” said Herrera. “They remember the first fight.”

When Herrera first met Provodnikov in the boxing ring on Jan. 7, 2011, both were relatively unknown to the boxing public. ESPN was televising the junior welterweight showdown. Many had refused to fight the heavy-handed Russian.

“I knew a little bit about him,” said Herrera. “I couldn’t turn it down. It was on TV.”

In the first round Provodnikov caught the Riverside fighter with hard blows that immediately caused a massive contusion under his left cheek. It didn’t look like the fight would last more than another round.

“I couldn’t see out of the eye,” Herrera remembers.

Somehow Herrera made adjustments and turned the fight around by the third round. Provodnikov began absorbing blows during exchanges and by the 12th round, both prizefighters were bloodied and bruised. Herrera was judged the winner by unanimous decision. It woke up the boxing world.

After that win Herrera hoped for the big paydays but they did not come for three more years. Not until he was matched with WBC junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia a Puerto Rican from Philadelphia.

The fight took place in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Herrera displayed a masterful jab and Garcia never could figure him out. After 12 rounds the crowd and those watching on television expected to hear Herrera announced as the winner.  Instead, Garcia was called the victor by majority decision. The previously pro-Garcia crowd was stunned. The television commentators were stunned.

Garcia was booed as he exited the arena. Herrera was cheered and applauded by the Puerto Rican fans as he departed that night. Television commentator Max Kellerman said Herrera should be wearing the WBC belt.

It wouldn’t be the last time Herrera was short-changed by judges. A year ago in Las Vegas the Riverside fighter seemingly out-punched and out-fought Jose Benavidez. The judges incredulously scored Benavidez the winner. Once again fans, boxing writers and television commentators saw it in reverse.

“It’s one of the reasons I want to fight Ruslan (Provodnikov) instead of Terence Crawford,” said Herrera. “If I’m going to fight I want a hard fight for my fans to come and see.”

Ironically, Provodnikov now trains in Indio with brothers Joel and Antonio Diaz. They no longer train WBO champion Tim Bradley but have the feared Russian in their stable.

“We’re going to be fighting for the People’s championship,” says Herrera with a chuckle. “It’s a tough fight but fans will appreciate it.”