Nico Hernandez’ Cinderella run to the Olympics light flyweight division semifinals ended Friday with a bronze medal.
The Wichita native lost by unanimous decision to Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov after struggling to gain momentum or connect on the signature punches that propelled him through the tournament’s first three rounds. The judges scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
“I stayed on the outside and didn’t move him, I fought his fight instead of my own,” Hernandez said. “I let him come in and make the fight too wild and that’s how I lost.”
The first round opened with Dusmatov landing a strong left uppercut to Hernandez’s face. Hernandez responded with a right hook that glanced off of his opponent’s head. Dusmatov landed a left jab and right cross combination in the final minute to take the round from all three judges.
Friday’s bout was the third of his four Olympic matches that Hernandez lost the first round.
“We tell our guys that the boxer who wins the first round wins the match 80 percent of the time,” U.S. boxing coach Billy Walsh said. “Especially in amateur boxing, you really have to work hard to win over the judges after that.”
Dusmatov picked up the second round where he left off in the first, knocking Hernandez with a right hook to the body and connecting squarely with a left jab to the North High graduate’s face. A headbutt from Dusmatov gashed an area above Hernandez’s left eye, eventually causing a stoppage as officials attended to clean up the blood on his face. The fighter from Uzbekistan also took the second round from all three judges.
Needing a lopsided win or knockout in the third round, Hernandez landed left and right uppercuts to Dusmatov’s body, while also connecting on a strong right hook to his opponent’s head. He took a left uppercut and right jab to the face, but earned the round from only one of three judges.
“I guess my shots weren’t getting to him,” Hernandez said, “and I started connecting way too late in the fight.”
Speaking after the match, Dusmatov, who will face Colombia’s Yurberjen Hern Martinez for the gold medal on Sunday, called Hernandez a “champion,” and said his victory was his most difficult fight of the Olympics so far.
“He’s really, really strong,” Dusmatov said through an interpreter.
Hernandez is the first American men’s boxer to medal in the Olympics since Deontay Wilder took bronze in the heavyweight division in Beijing’s 2008 games.
Also receiving a bronze medal in the light flyweight division was Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos, who lost to Colombia’s Martinez just minutes before Hernandez’s fight. Two fighters in each weight class are awarded bronze in the Olympics. There is no third place match.
Hernandez said he plans to stay in the Olympic Village through the end of the games on Aug. 21. From there, he said he’ll take some time off and speak with his family about the next steps in his boxing career.
Hernandez became Wichita’s first Olympic medalist since 1984, when Lynette Woodard (women’s basketball) and Mar Waldie (men’s volleyball) won gold. Hernandez became the last individual medalist from Wichita since Jim Ryun won silver in the 1500 meters in the 1968 Mexico City games.
“I’m definitely disappointed because I wanted to go home with the gold medal,” Hernandez said. “But I’m proud to end U.S. Boxing’s medal drought and I know my supporters back home are proud of me.”
Wichita’s Olympic Medalists
800 freestyle relay
400 medley relay
Rio de Janeiro
Lt. Flyweight boxing