The first member of the 2016 Olympic boxing team to have won a medal is officially a prospect in the pro ranks.
Nico Hernandez enjoyed a successful pro debut, tearing through Pat Gutierrez en route to a 4th round knockout Saturday evening at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. The bout ultimately ended in anti-climactic fashion when Gutierrez requested his corner stop the contest due to an injured right hand, but it didn't prevent the rabid crowd of 3,100 from cheering on its local (Wichita, KS) hero.
""It doesn't get better than this," Hernandez (1-0, 1KO) said of fighting in his backyward. "It means so much for me to bring boxing to Wichita, to all of Kansas, for these awesome fans."
The super flyweight - who was last seen capturing a Bronze medal for the 2016 U.S. Olympic boxing team competing as a light flyweight in Rio - opened the bout at an aggressive pace before settling into boxing showcase mode in round two. Confident of his ability to stop his opponent at any time, Hernandez mixed in body work with switching back and forth between southpaw and conventional stance.
"I started switching up a little because it was worked," Hernandez stated matter-of-factly."
There were no knockdowns on the night, but Hernandez had Gutierrez hurt in rounds three and four. He was denied a true knockout finish when his opponent instead turned to his corner, indicating an injured right hand that prevented him from continuing what was already a massive uphill battle.
The official time of the stoppage came at 2:35 of round four.
Hernandez' medal run in the 2016 Rio Olympics was the first by an American male boxer since Deontay Wilder captured Olympic bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The 2012 men's team was shut out across the board, making Hernandez' efforts all the more inspiring even in bowing out to eventual Gold medalist Hasanboy Dusmatov.
He now wants to bring that level of excitement and inspiration to his pro career.
"This was the way I pictured it," Hernandez insisted in reflecting back on the night. "As I was waiting in the tunnel, I could hear the crowd chanting my name. This was a great night of boxing. I want to bring more shows here.
"I'd like to get back fighting again in two months."
The bout aired live on CBS Sports Network in the United States.