The world’s second-ranked light flyweight was no match for Nico Hernandez on Monday. The Wichita native advanced by unanimous decision and is in the Olympic boxing quarterfinals.
Hernandez, 20, picked his punches to outmaneuver the fast-swinging Vasilii Egorov of Russia en route to matching scores of 29-28 from the three international judges.
“Me and my coaches came in with a game plan and we executed it,” Hernandez said. “I knew he was going to try and make it rough for me, so I just tried to keep my composure and stay smart with him.”
Hernandez went punch-for-punch with Egorov in the first round, blocking and dodging a flurry of jabs while landing a right jab of his own in the first minute and another left jab later in the round. Both punches struck his Russian opponent’s face, earning Hernandez the round from two of the three judges.
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Right hooks to Egorov’s body and face halfway through the second round won Hernandez the round from all three judges, as the North High graduate took only a left jab to the face from Egorov with about five seconds remaining.
With Egorov seemingly aiming for a knockout in the third round, Hernandez landed a strong right hook to the Russian’s face early in the round, before almost being knocked down with a left hook from Egorov. A jab combination with about two minutes remaining in the round and another with under a minute left earned Egorov the round from two of the three judges, but it was too late for the world’s No. 2 light flyweight.
“(Hernandez) did everything to a T, everything I asked,” said U.S. coach Billy Walsh. “It was as good of a performance as possible.”
Hernandez, who is unseeded in the tournament, said he felt like an underdog entering the fight, and had nothing to lose.
“I knew he was on top, so that made me want to beat him even more,” Hernandez said. “He was throwing a lot, but I felt like he was missing a lot, too.”
Walsh said the two will celebrate Monday night and start preparing Tuesday for Carlos Quipo Pilataxi of Ecuador. The quarterfinal match is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday and the winner is guaranteed a bronze medal.
Egorov, 22, was second at the 2015 world championships and won the 2015 European championships for the light flyweight division. Walking with his head down and a blood-stained towel over his face after Monday’s fight, he declined to speak with reporters.