Yoan Pablo Hernandez: The World’s Best Cruiserweight?

By James Slater: Many people (myself included) fully expected Steve “USS” Cunningham to avenge his Oct. 2011, 6th-round TD setback at the hands of Yoan Pablo Hernandez in last night’s IBF cruiserweight rematch. Instead, Cuban southpaw Hernandez again beat Cunningham, and he also came close to stopping Cunningham (this time in the 4th-round when he scored two knockdowns; last time scoring a hurtful knockdown in the opening session).

A clear winner, at least on the scorecards (116-110 twice and 115-111 - with a number of fans and experts feeling the fight was much closer than that even if the right man had his hand raised in Germany), the 27-year-old proved he is one of the best 200-pound fighters in the world today. In fact, it’s arguable Hernandez, 26-1(13) is THE best cruiserweight on the planet right now. Not since his 2008, 3rd-round TKO loss at the hands of “Big Truck” Wayne Braithwaite has the 6’4” Cuban lost a fight, winning 12 bouts in a row since suffering his sole pro loss.

Hernandez never got the chance to try and avenge his loss to Braithwaite, yet he has the chance now to further prove his credentials at the top of his weight class. Cunningham, who has lost only split decisions to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (later avenged) and Tomasz Adamek, has never been handled so ruthlessly by any other fighter. Hernandez may simply have the Philly fighter’s number, but it could also be that Hernandez has the beating of any cruiserweight you care to mention. Put it this way: in light of Hernandez’ two great wins over Cunningham it’s time to find out how good he really is.

Probably at his peak now at age 27, it would be great to see Hernandez in there with the likes of Denis Lebedev, Wlodarczyk, Guillermo Jones and Antonio Tarver. Big, powerful and very dangerous, Hernandez could well beat all these names if given the chance.

The German-based 200-pounder had a stellar amateur career, yet he has flown largely under the radar since turning pro in 2005. Promoted by Sauerland Promotions, the big fights may now start coming for the former Olympian. Seemingly having it all, Hernandez could even be the best thing to happen to the cruiserweight division since the glory days of Evander Holyfield. Undeserved high praise? Maybe - but let the Wlodarczyks, the Tarvers, the Lebedevs and the Jones’s prove it.

As for Cunningham, it is now possible the 35-year-old will try his hand up at heavyweight. Maybe Hernandez will join him one day.

Article posted on 06.02.2012

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