'El Maestro' hopes to orchestrate a big upset

Rising prospect Vergil Ortiz a big-time favorite to defeat old-pro Mauricio Herrera 

By John J. Raspanti

Herrera vs. Ortiz
Herrera vs. Ortiz

For most of his 11-year boxing career, Mauricio Herrera has been an underdog.


Tomorrow night in Las Vegas, on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez and Danny Jacobs main event, Herrera will enter the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. as much as a 50-1 underdog against Vergil Ortiz.


Herrera has done very well over the course of a career that began at the relatively old age (for boxing) of 27.


Victorious in his first 13 fights, Herrera lost a fight, but rebounded three bouts later to hand future welter champion Ruslan Provodonikov his first career defeat. Herrera handled Mike Dallas Jr, dropped decisions to then contenders Mike Alvarado and Karim Mayfield, and in 2014, traveled to Puerto Rico to square off against heavily favored (10-1) world champion Danny Garcia.


In the best shape of his life, and motivated to prove the naysayers wrong, Herrera frustrated the champion all night long. He jabbed to the body consistently, and landed more punches. Garcia connected with the heavier shots, but Herrera controlled most of the fight.


Or so it seemed.

Two judges had Garcia winning the bout by four points, while the third scored the fight a draw.


Showtime commentators Al Bernstein, Paulie Malignaggi, and Steve Farhood, all had Herrera winning the bout. This boxing scribe concurred.

Sadly, the decision shocked few. Garcia was fighting in Puerto Rico for the first time. His parents were born there. The hometown crowd cheered Garcia‘s every move. In a perfect world, Herrera deserved to win the fight. But boxing is miles away from being perfect, especially in its judging.


Nine months later, Herrera was again on the short side of a controversial decision. His opponent that night, undefeated Jose Benavidez, was being groomed by Top Rank for stardom. To most watching from home, and at ringside, Hererra did more than enough to win the fight.


As the decision was announced, Herrera sensed it wouldn’t go his way. He wasn’t wrong. All judges had Benavidez the clear-cut winner.


“Those bad decisions are hard to take,” Herrera told me a few years ago. “I was tired of being cheated out of my fights.”


He bounced back, capturing the interim world title four months later, and the NABF in 2015, by defeating Hank Lundy.


Herrera took a long break after his victory over Lundy. He basically did nothing for over a year. The layoff hurt. When he came back, it was against prospect Frankie Gomez who handled him easily. He looked like a car stuck in neutral. Six months later, he tried again, this time against Pablo Cesar Cano. He did better but still came up short.


Ignoring calls to retire, Herrera found a couple of positives during the Cano fight.


“I did feel that I was finding my edge as the fight (against Cano) went on,” Herrera said. “I started getting comfortable. I found my jab. I was telling myself to throw the jab. I was teaching myself in there.”


Herrera’s left jab has always been his most effective weapon. His jab is so educated it earned him the nickname of “El Maestro”


Ortiz,21, has stopped all 12 of his opponents. He’s young, quick, and powerful. He wants to be the first fighter to knock Herrera out.


“It’s very hard to look good against Mauricio Herrera,” Ortiz said. “World champions have fought him and have looked bad. If I can look good and be the first to ever stop him, then I’ll be making a big statement.”


Herrera knows what he’s facing.


“It doesn’t mean nothing,” said Herrera. “I don’t care what he does. It’s what’s I do.”


Long odds mean nothing to Herrera. Win or lose, he’ll give it his all.


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