Hernandez to Make Professional Boxing Debut in December

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.

Nico Hernandez

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.

Martinez Takes Home the Silver in Men’s Light-Flyweight at the 2016 Rio Games

2016 Rio Games

It wasn’t the color he’d hoped, but Yuberjen Martinez still has an Olympic medal…

Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov out-boxed the 24-year-old Colombian boxer to win the Men’s Light-Flyweight gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, with Martinez having to settle for the silver.

Yuberjen Martinez

In a much-anticipated bout on Sunday, Dusmatov moved around the ring quickly and well, kept his guard up in the face of Martinez’s punches and earned a unanimous favorable decision by the three judges.

Dusmatov, who had won the gold at the Asian Championships in 2015, was the more active of the pair in the first round as he probed Martinez’s defenses, while the Colombian seemed to be a little tentative, despite the roars of the huge South American contingent of fans who were on hand for the match.

Martinez, an elegant boxer, picked up his tempo in the second round but the Uzbek was better on the counterattack, setting the pace for the fight, which was not a slugfest but rather a calculating and careful affair.  Sensing a victory, Dusmatov often danced away from Martinez in the third round, and although the Colombian knew he needed a telling round to get the win, he was not able to manufacture the combinations needed and had to settle for the silver.

Yuberjen Martinez

Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos and US boxer Nico Hernandez, both of whom had lost in the semifinals, won the bronze medals.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government will present Martinez with “the house Yuberjen has dreamed of” in light of his silver-medal win at the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to what Housing, Urban and Territorial Minister Elsa Noguera said on Twitter.  Local television showed Martinez weeping and speechless after being informed that Bogota will give him the home for his mother, as per a wish that he had always expressed before each of his bouts.

Hernandez Ends U.S.’s Eight-Year Medal Drought in Boxing at the 2016 Rio Games

2016 Rio Games

Nico Hernandez won’t be leaving Brazil with an Olympic gold medal, but he will still be remembered for making history.

Despite his loss to Uzbekistan’s Hassanboy Dusmatov in the semifinals of the Men’s Light Fly 49 kg, the 20-year-old Latino boxer will bring home a bronze medal alongside Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos.

Nico Hernandez

He’ll standing on the medal podium as the US’s first light flyweight medalist in nearly 30 years. He’s also earned the U.S. its first medal in men’s boxing in eight years

Hernandez had enjoyed an unexpected run to the semifinals, following his unexpected defeat of the top seeded Vasilii Egorov of Russia.

The light fly final, on Sunday, will face Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez against Dusmatov for Olympic gold. Hernandez has no more matchups, but he will join the two on the podium later in the day to be awarded bronze.

That Hernandez made it to the 2016 Summer Olympics is almost as miraculous as the run he’s been on since arriving here. He failed in his first two attempts at making the Olympic team before qualifying in March.

“His transition between October and now has been amazing,” said Coach Billy Walsh, who joined U.S. Boxing last fall, about the time Hernandez caught fire.