It would prove to be the first of many. On this day back in 1998, a young, fresh-faced Floyd Mayweather Junior won his very first world title. At 17-0 and aged just 21, “Pretty Boy” challenged the experienced Genaro Hernandez for the WBC super-featherweight title. In so doing, Mayweather became the first fighter from the superb 1996 Olympic squad to capture pro gold.
Hernandez, a softly-spoken and proud fighter, had lost just once – this to Oscar De La Hoya, up at 135 pounds. The 32-year-old was making the fourth defence of the title he had won by defeating the great Azumah Nelson; who “Chicanito” had won a decision over in March of 1997 (This fight proving quite controversial: Nelson hitting Hernandez in the throat after the bell, this leaving Genaro KO’d and unable to breathe. Hernandez could have stopped fighting and he would have been awarded a DQ win, yet he instead opted to box on after the 7th round). Overall, Hernandez was 38-1-1(17), the technical draw coming against Raul Perez in 1993.
Was it too much too soon for the enormously talented yet still somewhat inexperienced Mayweather? Well, no, it wasn’t. Mayweather was brilliant in the fight, dominating the action all the way in winning each and every round. Hernandez might have been tough, yet Floyd’s blend of speed, movement, superb defence and sheer desire to become a superstar proved way too much for the defending champ.
After eight one-sided sessions, Hernandez’ corner pulled their man out. Mayweather was a world champion after just 72 rounds of pro boxing. And Mayweather had won the first of five world titles in as many weights. Hernandez announced his retirement from the sport shortly after he’d been retired on his stool against Mayweather. Sadly, Genaro, a great guy and a fine commentator passed away from cancer in June of 2011, aged just 45. Mayweather, showing class and compassion, quietly paid for Genaro’s funeral.
We saw two great fighters in the ring on the night of October 3, 1998. In some ways, the Mayweather-Hernandez fight was a classic changing of the guard; a passing of the torch. To this day, when Mayweather looks back, he rates Hernandez as one of the finest opponents he faced during his long career.