“It felt good, just knowing I’m representing my country,” said Hernandez. “It felt like I am the best.”
The Veles Cup is an international boxing tournament where two countries face each other up through all the weights. Each win earns a team two points, while each loss gets one point. After each team has faced each other, the total number of points are counted up to determine a winner. The U.S. took second while the Russian National team won gold.
Stepping into the ring with some of the best young amateur boxers in the world provides an incredibly tough obstacle. When you add the experience of being halfway across the world from your home, submersed in a completely different culture, the task becomes even more daunting. Nico made Team U.S.A. at 101 pounds, but had to fight nearly 10 pounds lighter, losing weight after arriving in Russia.
“(Russia) made me love my country a lot more,” said Hernandez. “It was hard out there. (The food) was pretty nasty. I just went and bought ramen noodles like every day. That’s what I ate, and drank tea.”
Fighting almost 10 pounds under his weight makes the international success even more impressive. But then again, Hernandez is routinely forced to spar with boxers nearly 40 pounds bigger than he is in order to find a challenge and get something out of the session.
While it is always better to win, Nico’s father Lewis sees a silver lining in losing the final bout. Leaving Russia with a loss saves room for improvement and motivation to improve in the ring for the next major challenge.
Stepping up to major challenges is nothing new. Hernandez’ Silver Gloves career has come to an end, but not without winning six national championships in six attempts. The only other boxer with six Silver Gloves national championship belts in his possession is Rau’shee Warren, who will become the only American boxer to fight in three different Olympic Games this summer in London.
Hernandez’ bid for an eighth-straight Ringside World Championship belt will be this weekend in Kansas City.
With all the Silver Gloves and Ringside success, the Junior Olympic experience is the biggest step toward the next big thing for Hernandez; the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“It’s my goal to win the Olympics in 2016,” said Hernandez.
The different Olympic-style scoring rewards a different style of fighting than what is rewarded in pro-style boxing. Silver, and Golden Gloves boxing is a style that rewards volume punching, and the ability to break an opponent down by working the body. Olympic-style scoring rewards clean punching, almost exclusively to the head, putting an emphasis on defense.
With Hernandez’ experience, picking up a Most Outstanding Fighter award in his first international tournament in a new scoring system, Rio is not out of reach.