Former IBF 130 pound champ Carlos Hernandez never took a backward step in any fight. Tougher than tough, “El Famoso” rumbled with the best – Floyd Mayweather, Erik Morales, Genaro Hernandez, David Santos, Steve Forbes, Juan Carlos Ramirez, Jesus Chavez. And the proud fighter who represented El Salvador gave all of them hell.
The first man to score a knockdown against Mayweather, Hernandez became world champion in 2003. Retiring with a 43-8-1(24) record in 2009, Hernandez was never stopped.
Here, “Famoso” kindly recalls his excitement-filled career for ESB:
Q: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! You were never in a bad fight, always thrilling the fans. Right now, looking back, which fights of yours are most memorable to you?
Carlos Hernandez: “Probably the most memorable one was when I fought Mayweather. Just because it was Mayweather and also because the odds were totally against me – 35/1 and 40/1 odds. I think I did pretty well in that fight. Everyone thought I was gonna get stopped or something like that, but I went the full 12 rounds and it was a good fight. It was a really good fight for me.”
Q: And of course, are you the first man to be credited with knocking Mayweather down in a pro fight?
CH: “Correct. He took a knee (in the 6th round) because he supposedly hurt his hand. Then, I hit him with a left hook and I was gonna hit him again but that’s when he took the knee, he just turned around, basically giving me his back, and he went down. So they gave him the count. It wasn’t like I hurt him, not anything like Shane Mosley did in their fight, but he was in pain, he hurt his hand and I’m sure he didn’t want to receive any punishment from me when he had a hurt hand, so he took the knee.”
Q: And no disrespect to Floyd, but he basically ran away those last few rounds?
CH: “Oh, yeah – definitely. That fight, when I fought him, people were saying, ‘Man, he’s not in a marathon!’ He did really run. You can see the fight today, and he was really running. But he beat me on points, he is connected, he did hit me, he did land, and he was so very elusive. So he did well – he had to. Every now and then he would stand in there with me, where he would be forced to throw that [right] hand, but he knew it would end up worse for him that way, so that’s why he ran. And I think he did great in doing that, because me, if I was that fighter, I would have done the same thing; just run away and win on points.”
Q: You of course had a great chin, with you never once being stopped. Did Mayweather ever hurt you at all?
CH: “You know, the first round, he didn’t hurt me, but I did see a white light in that first round. A flash. I think that was from a right hand. I was kind of like, ‘gosh, darn!’ But I was prepared for something like that, you know – if I got dizzy, how I would react if I got hurt, which I didn’t get hurt. I never staggered or anything like that. But he did catch me, he was just so fast. I woke up and I got on him.”
Q: I’ve got to ask you about the war you had with Erik Morales.
CH: “Erik Morales, again, a fighter from Mexico who I thought would stay in there with me and fight, but he chose to back-pedal and box and use his ring intelligence. I was always going forward, I didn’t go backwards at all. I wanted to draw him into that war. That’s what I wanted, that was my style. I wanted to have him make mistakes on the inside, but he chose to box me. That’s what he did. The last round, he chose to stay there and we had a standing ovation; it was a great, great closing of a good fight. He beat me but I felt he beat me by using that jab. I didn’t feel his punches at all, I just walked through them. I cut him, I think in the mid-rounds, but I couldn’t capitalise on it.”
Q: It’s interesting, because Morales, a truly great fighter of course, went to war, toe-to-toe, with a number of opponents. But not with you?
CH: “Exactly, and Jesus Chavez and some of the other guys I fought…I just felt he [Morales] wasn’t comfortable with the style of me pressuring him and smothering him too much. He just didn’t feel comfortable. I wanted that war. But at the same time as me saying I wanted that war, I wanted to make it uncomfortable for him on the inside, where I’m not giving him any space, not giving him any room. The other guys [who fought Morales] did; they gave him room, they gave him that space to land those counter shots. His jab is what beat me, that’s what took the fight I believe.”
Q: Talk about the special night when you became world champion, this at the third attempt. It must have been super-special to have beaten David Santos to become IBF champ, with El Salvador’s president there supporting you, and with Roberto Duran and Alexis Arguello cheering you on!
CH: “Yes, I fought Mayweather, then I fought the late, great Genaro Hernandez, then I fought David Santos and became champion. It was a special night. The fight, not so much, it wasn’t as memorable for the fans as the Mayweather fight was. But for me, it was unforgettable – I was with my wife, and being with the president, and then with Alexis Arguello and Roberto Duran, those guys being my heroes! I was a fan of those guys and of course they represent Central America, so that [win] put me in there as well, being one of the chosen few to represent Central America. You know, when we [fighters from Central America] fight guys from any other country, Mexican fighters, especially, we’re all for Central America. That was a special night for me and thank God I was able to do it. I can go back and relive that fight and it’s a beautiful thing that I can show it to my kids.”
Q: Talk about working with the great trainer Amilcar Bruscas, who of course is most famous for having trained the legendary Carlos Monzon.
CH: “I would probably put him as the top one as far as trainers I worked with. When I train fighters, I use his philosophy, his style – he is the best I ever trained with. He was so good. He was just a guy who was like, ‘okay, hit the bag.’ He was hands on. And sometimes as a fighter, I wanted to be left alone, I was like, ‘leave me alone, I wanna fight, I wanna train!’ But with him you had to be patient and understand why you are doing this; why we are doing this, and basically be a student. You had to listen to him. I also worked with Emanuel Steward and with Bill Slayton, who trained Ken Norton and Lamon Brewster.”
Q: Who was the best you fought overall, if you had to say?
CH: “I’d have to put Mayweather at the top, with Genaro a very close second.”
Q: When you did retire, were you content?
CH: “That’s a good question. When I walked away, I was content. I was like, ‘you know what, I’m done.’ I was done because I knew my body was not there anymore, my mentality was not there anymore. It wasn’t like I had to hurt somebody, that I had to train hard to make money or to provide for my family. I felt like I was in a place where I was content with what I have with my family. When I walked away it was good, I was happy.”
Q: Is there anyone you would have liked to have fought that you didn’t get the chance to face?
CH: “Oh, good question. The one I wish I would have had was Barrera. Marco Antonio Barrera. In fact, I called him out on national TV. He heard me and he said yes, he would like to fight me, but it never happened.”