By Carlos Acevedo
Five years ago, you could find Hank Lundy in the crowd at a fight in Philadelphia, hollering “Lightweight champion of the world!” over and over until, by the end of the night, his voice grew hoarse from the surreal exertion. Half a decade later, Lundy has yet to achieve his goal, but he gets a payday and another chance to gatecrash a new division when he faces hard-bitten spoiler Mauricio Herrera on Saturday night at The Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California.
As madcap outside of the ring as he is inside of it, Lundy, 31, has battled contracts, promoters, scales, and a slew of competent pros over the years. But his erratic behavior has cost him more than he may be willing to admit. In the last six months, Lundy has had two fights scotched: a title eliminator against Petr Petrov went down in flames when Lundy failed to make weight and a slot on the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal undercard against Dierry Jean fell apart—and this is fitting for Lundy—for no discernible reason whatsoever.
This time, instead of a cancellation or an injunction, instead of trash talk or Twitter beef, Lundy has made news by getting married—less than a week before he has to answer the bell against Herrera. Whether that indicates an athlete so zen that he can enjoy a stretch of bliss without losing his edge remains to be seen. Indeed, just a few days after becoming a newlywed, Lundy managed to kick up a ruckus at the final press conference. But Lundy, who in the past has had difficulty focusing in the ring, will need more than just attitude to get by Herrera.
A good case could be made for calling Herrera, 35, one of the best junior welterweights in the world based on his recent fights results against Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez—no matter how baffling their results. True to his game, Herrera nearly upset Garcia in Puerto Rico last year, when “Swift”—despite speaking Spanish as poorly as ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—made his faux homecoming debut in Bayamon for marketing purposes that, alas, nearly went awry. At times, Benavidez actually looked out of his depth against Herrera, but he still managed to win via landslide in one of the worst decisions of 2014. In addition to his freshest setbacks, Herrera also dropped a dubious decision to Mike Anchondo in 2009. Somehow, Herrera, has managed to avoid learned helplessness, and his defiant attitude epitomizes the fighting spirit—one that refuses to play the role of pushover.
Understanding why Herrera falls short so often in high-profile bouts means acknowledging the have-and-have-not system inherent in boxing, where connected fighters seem to enter the ring two points up on the scorecard. But it also means recognizing the fact that Herrera, 21-5 (7 KOs), is not a stylist. Despite turning pro at 27, Herrera has m
astered the art of spoiling. A junkball artist who feints, parries, clutches, and throws noogies on the inside, Herrera does not initiate enough clean action to catch the often half-lidded eyes of judges at ringside.
If Herrera had been given a “W” against Garcia and Benavidez instead of a “WTF,” he would probably be facing a marquee name for a commensurate paycheck at The Sports Arena. Instead, he risks his limited tomorrows against another snake-bitten pro. “Lundy is a tough fighter,” Herrera said at a press conference in the City Athletix Gym. “We have both had tough careers. We have had it rough and this is the perfect fight for us. This fight will show who is hungrier, who has more heart.”
More than once, Lundy, who dropped a split decision to Thomas Dulorme in his last outing, has been marked as the opponent. He has also been on the short-end of a few questionable scorecards, most notably against Ray Beltran in 2012.
Against raw bruisers such as Ruslan Provodnikov and Ji-Hoon Kim, Herrera showed some nifty moves on the perimeter, but Lundy is a different proposition altogether. A switch-hitting boxer with fast hands and a steady jab, Lundy, 25-4-1 (12 KOs), will likely look to outmaneuver Herrera from the outside. His biggest weaknesses are lapses of concentration, an iffy defense, and a champagne-flute fragile chin. Fortunately for Lundy, who has been dropped several times in his career and was stopped by John Molina in 2010, Herrera has all the firepower of a pop-gun. As in his previous fights, Herrera will look to outwork Lundy and hope the scorecards don't shortchange him once more.
Not only is this a fight between two seasoned professionals but it is also a reprieve, of sorts. At a certain level, most fighters are potential commodities; too often, however, they are devalued through cynical matchmaking. Herrera and Lundy have a chance to ensure their immediate futures by facing off against each other in a pick ‘em fight and not as longshots with the odds against them both inside and outside the ring. Even so, they will be asked to work just as hard between the ropes, where they have rarely made an easy dollar.