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Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Firat Arslan: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Kevin McRaeFeatured Columnist IVDecember 27, 2016

Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Firat Arslan: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Yoan Pablo Hernandez returns to the ring on Saturday, defending his IBF Cruiserweight Championship in Germany against the always dangerous Firat Arslan.

    Hernandez successfully defended his crown against Alexander Alekseev in his last fight, ending the night with a devastating looping right hand in Round 10. The German-based Cuban fighter hasn’t lost since being knocked out by Wayne Braithwaite in 2008, and he’s looking to expand his position in the cruiserweight division.

    Arslan is a former cruiserweight champion in his own right, but he hasn’t looked great in his recent fights. You wouldn’t be wrong to say he’s a little long in the tooth, but he comes to give it his all every time. He won’t go down without at least giving Hernandez a fight.

    Read on for your complete preview and prediction for Hernandez vs. Arslan with the IBF Cruiserweight Championship in the balance.

Tale of the Tape

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    Daniel Kopatsch/Associated Press

    All stats and information per Boxrec.com.

     Yoan Pablo HernandezFirat Arslan
    Record28-1, 14 KO34-7-2, 21 KO
    Age2943
    Height6'4"5'11.5"
    Weight198.75 (last fight)205 (last fight)
    Reach77"77"
    StanceSouthpawSouthpaw
    HometownPinar del Rio, CubaFriedberg, Bayern, Germany
    Rounds159263
    Last FightKO 10 Alexander Alekseev (11/23/13)UD 8 Tamas Bajzath (6/7/14)

Main Storylines

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    Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

    Hernandez hasn’t looked terribly impressive of late, and this fight seems to be a bit of a step down for him rather than the step up many were hoping would happen.

    He’s won 14 straight fights, all in Germany, since suffering his first defeat in 2008. In that stretch, he has beaten a couple of recognizable names—Steve Cunningham twice and Troy Ross—though a fair bit of controversy surrounded two of those three fights.

    Hernandez obviously has some talent, but he needs a big performance in this fight to stand out in an often-overlooked cruiserweight division. Fans, particularly in Germany, are probably hoping for a unification showdown between Hernandez and superstar Marco Huck in the future, but first things first.

    Arslan doesn’t look like your prototypical challenger for a young champion in his prime. He’s 43 years old and has lost two of his last four contests. But he’s a former world champion and remains very popular in Germany because of his tough, physical style.

    Both of Arslan’s recent losses came against Huck—closely by decision in 2012 and more decisively by knockout earlier this year—and his two wins came against journeymen and are of little real value.

    Arslan is clearly fighting for his last shot at a title. You only get so many chances, and he isn’t getting any younger. Not everyone is Bernard Hopkins and gets to fight until they’re 50.

Strengths

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Hernandez is a southpaw with solid technical skills.

    He covers ground well inside the ring and is generally pretty compact with his punches. The Cuban strings his combinations together well, and he’ll have a significant height advantage over Arslan when the two step into the ring.

    Arslan is a big, powerfully built fighter who likes to work his way inside and attack.

    He’s a very methodical southpaw who keeps a high, tight guard when he’s on the outside. That could benefit him against a better boxer in Hernandez. Once he’s inside, Arslan unloads with powerful combinations, and he has the strength to do significant damage.

Weaknesses

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Hernandez hasn’t really stepped up since taking two fights against Cunningham and winning both, and it’s not like there haven’t been options.

    The Cuban doesn’t have a ton of power for a big man—his knockout rate is under 50 percent—and he’s been bitten by the injury bug a few times in his career.

    Hernandez can be hurt—Ross dropped and nearly stopped him in the fifth round of their bout—and he’ll need to be defensively aware against the hard-hitting Arslan.

    Arslan is definitely long in the tooth, and that means stamina could be an issue.

    He doesn’t vary his attack very much—coming straight forward without much movement—and he isn’t an overly hard target to hit.

    Given his style and his opponent’s known boxing abilities, he could have a very difficult time finding himself in scoring range.

Yoan Pablo Hernandez Will Win If...

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Hernandez doesn’t want to turn this fight into a slugfest. That plays right into Arslan’s strengths and gives him the best chance of scoring an upset.

    The Cuban is a proficient boxer, and he needs to keep the fight on the outside to avoid his foe’s physicality and punching power.

    Hernandez is the taller man, and if he can fight like one, sticking his jab and hooking around Arslan’s guard, then this could turn out to be easy work for him.

    Arslan isn’t very creative offensively. His guard is high and tight, yes, but he doesn’t move his head much, doesn’t vary his angle of attack and presents a more or less stationary target who stands right in front of an opponent.

    Hernandez has the technical skill and combination punching required to take advantage, and if he does then he should win the fight.

Firat Arslan Will Win If...

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Arslan would seem to have a limited window in which to win this fight.

    The longer the fight is extended, the better the odds become for Hernandez. That’s both because of Arslan’s stamina and the ability of the Cuban to wear a foe down.

    Arslan needs to get off to a fast start, attacking Hernandez before he can get comfortable and settled into the fight. He needs to use his physicality to bull his way in, forcing the champion into uncomfortable close-quarter exchanges that play away from his strengths.

    He can’t win the fight on the outside. That’s just not his style.

    Arslan needs to attack in a similar fashion to the way he fought Huck to a competitive decision two years ago. He needs to dictate the pace, force exchanges and keep Hernandez in positions that don’t allow him to box effectively.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Hernandez has some limitations, but he won’t lose in this fight.

    No disrespect to Arslan, who has had a solid professional career, but it’s pretty clear that his best fighting days sit firmly in the rear-view mirror. This has the feel of a fight that was calculated to provide a certain level of attention without an overly high level of risk.

    Arslan is still a name, and he remains popular in Germany, but he hasn’t beaten a world-class fighter in years. He gave Huck a good run for his money two years ago, but he has only won two fights against journeymen in the time since.

    Hernandez is just younger, fresher and better at this stage of the game, and he takes a wide unanimous decision.

    Prediction: Hernandez UD 12 Arslan (117-111)

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