Nico Hernandez is turning pro…
The 20-year-old Latino boxer, who claimed a light flyweight bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games in August, will make his professional debut on December 10 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, on the undercard of unified junior welterweight world champion Terence Crawford‘s hometown title defense against John Molina Jr.
Hernandez, who doesn’t have an opponent for his four-round bout yet, will fight as a 115-pound junior bantamweight after competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics as a 108-pounder.
Hernandez said he and his father/trainer Lewis Hernandez discussed the possibility of remaining amateur and trying to improve on his performance in Rio, but Nico said he really wanted to go the professional route.
“I made the decision because financially it would be better as a pro,” Hernandez told ESPN. “If I’m getting punched in the face, I might as well get paid for it. Now they’re letting pros go to the Olympics (as of the Rio Games), so there’s really no point in being an amateur boxer anymore since the goal is to make it to the Olympics.”
At the Rio Games, Hernandez ended the medal drought for Team USA’s male boxers, who had not won an Olympic medal since heavyweight Deontay Wilder claimed a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. Hernandez won a three-round decision against Ecuador’s Carlos Eduardo Quipo Palaxti in the quarterfinals to clinch a bronze.
Hernandez wasn’t considered a medal favorite when the Rio Games began, but his Cinderella run ended with a decision loss to eventual gold medalist Hasanboy Dusmatov, of Uzbekistan, in the semifinals. Two bronze medals are awarded in boxing.
Hernandez, who began boxing at age 9 and was approximately 122-13 as an amateur, returned home to Wichita as a hero. He was feted at a parade, and Wichita State University bestowed him with a four-year, full-ride scholarship.
Hernandez went 3-1 during the Olympics and became the first American light flyweight to win a medal since Michael Carbajal — who went on to have a Hall of Fame professional career — claimed silver in the 1988 Seoul Games. Hernandez said he plans to work toward a degree while boxing professionally.
“I definitely want something [to] fall back on,” Hernandez said.
But he is anxious to start his pro career.
“I can’t wait to go pro. I’ve been wanting to for a while,” Hernandez said.