Almost everyone in the Kansas Star Arena chanted in unison.
“Nico Her-nan-dez,” they said as they watched Wichita’s own premier boxer remain undefeated (6-0) with a unanimous (80-72, 80-72, 79-73) 8-round decision over Josue Morales on Saturday in the biggest boxing event the Wichita area has ever seen.
Hernandez brought the crowd as he continued his climb toward one of the world’s best in the flyweight division. He said he appreciated all of his fans for coming out.
“It’s a great, great feeling hearing them cheer me on,” he said. “It just makes me want to keep on pushing and putting on for the 316.”
Hernandez was instrumental in helping move the event from Atlantic City to Kansas. The card that featured undefeated heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, and Garden City native and former world champion Brandon Rios.
Hernandez, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, said he didn’t even mean for it to happen.
“It just kind of happened,” he said. “And I’m thankful that I was able to bring this show here.”
Hernandez’s bout was well-fought out of both corners. Morales offered a different left-handed style that had Hernandez experimenting through the fight. The Wichita native doubled Morales up in total punches and power punches thrown as Morales (8-8) was shelled for most of the fight.
After the fight, the boxers displayed an extended show of respect as Morales entered Hernandez’s camp and showed his appreciation for the fight.
“All of us are here for a reason,” Hernandez said. “We’re all fighting for our families.”
Hernandez currently holds the IBA and IBA Americas world titles and said it is time to get back in the gym. But he said the atmosphere was outstanding Saturday.
Fans packed into the 6,000-capacity arena as the event drew a national crowd with world-class boxers and personalities such as Michael Buffer, the famous ring announcer, Sugar Ray Leonard, the boxing legend, and Eddie Hearn, the English promoter, on hand.
Hernandez said it was special to fight in front of that type of atmosphere back home.
He wasn’t the only one out of Kansas on the main card. Former WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios, out of Garden City, returned to the site of his first professional fight and beat Ramon Alvarez, brother of champion Canelo Alvarez, by TKO at 0:38 of the ninth round.
Rios, 32, said he is still fighting to get back to a belt.
Much like it must have felt for Rios, Hernandez said Saturday felt a lot like his first professional fight.
“I’m thankful for my fans,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them. It’s the whole reason they brought this show here.”
Jeremy Nichols def. Jeremiah Page via first-round KO.
Nikita Ababiy def. Javier Rodriguez by first-round TKO.
Anthony Sims Jr. def. Colby Courter via second-round TKO.
Manny Thompson def. Leroy Jones by unanimous decision.
Gabriel Rosado and Luis Arias fought to a split draw (116-112 Arias, 116-112 Rosado, 114-114).
Brandon Rios def. Ramon Alvarez by TKO at 0:38 of the ninth round.
Nico Hernandez def. Josue Morales by unanimous decision (80-72, 80-72, 79-73).
Claressa Shields def. Hannah Rankin by unanimous decision (100-90, 100-90, 100-90).
Jarrell Miller def. Bogdan Dinu by KO at 2:45 of fourth round.