Miguel Cotto's protege Janiel Rivera (10-1-2, 6 KO) will have his first opportunity to win a world title on Saturday when he faces WBC light flyweight champion Adrian Hernandez (28-2-1, 17 KO) in Mexico.
You normally won't see a title defense between such an experienced champion and inexperienced challenger; however, in the smaller weight classes, it's more common. Also, in the WBC, just about anything is possible.
Cotto's promotional power also played a major role in landing Rivera this bout. Is it too soon in Rivera's career for such a big test?
Here's how you can watch and find out.
When: Saturday, Feb. 8 at 11 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio de Mexico in Huixquilucan, Mexico
TV: Mexico Televisa
The Book on Rivera
The 22-year-old Rivera is being thrown in with a seasoned, veteran champion intent on defending his title, but Cotto is confident his fighter will come away victorious.
Cotto told Boxing Clever of Boxing Scene: "I know my boxers! Rivera is a boy with great future, and it'll all begin on February 8th in Mexico. Keep an eye on him, because he’s a great fighter. We’ve seen many videos of Hernandez and we think Rivera has a chance of conquering the WBC title."
Cotto is a symbol of excellence in the rich tradition of Puerto Rican boxing. He's hoping Rivera can become the latest in a long line of Puerto Rican champions.
Without question, it's a stiff challenge for such a young fighter, but Rivera is talented. He's lean, quick and has demonstrated good punching power. Check out this perfectly placed left hook to the body to knock out Omar Soto in 2012. It happens towards the end of the first round.
Hernandez represents a step up in competition. Fighting him in Mexico makes the task all the more daunting for Rivera. We'll soon find out if he is ready for the challenge.
The Book on Hernandez
The 28-year-old champion acknowledges that the young challenger has gifts, but that has seemingly motivated him for the title defense. It will be his fourth since winning the crown by sixth-round TKO in a rematch with Kompayak Porpramook in 2012.
Taking on a talented young challenger, along with the Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry, has Hernandez fired up about fighting in his home country. He told Jake Donovan of Boxing Scene:
We know Rivera is a dangerous fighter, a young fighter with many skills and part of Miguel Cotto’s team. None of that makes me lose sleep. As champion, I am ready for all changes. We are going to do this on February 8 and, with the support of the Mexican public, I will give my country another victory in the longtime sports rivalry with Puerto Rico.
Can experience and a home-field advantage overtake youth and exuberance? Here's how I see the fight going.
Stamina will be the biggest factor in this bout. Rivera is young, but he's never been beyond eight rounds in his career. The lone time he went eight rounds, he lost a unanimous decision to Miguel Del Valle in July 2013.
Hernandez has been in wars with the likes of Porpramook and Atsushi Kakutani in his most recent bout. Rivera hasn't had to face these types of situations in his career.
Rivera has the edge in speed, but Hernandez is tough and rugged. He can absorb punches and potentially wear his opponent down.
On Saturday, that is what he's going to do to Rivera. In the mid to late rounds, you'll see Rivera lose some steam and Hernandez will come on.
The champion will retain his title by unanimous decision or late TKO.
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