After seven years of preliminary bouts and club show headliners, Joey Hernandez is finally within proximity of a world title opportunity.
Hernandez’s fight against Cornelius Bundrage on Friday night at Indio, Calif., could have championship consequences. The International Boxing Federation has designated the bout a junior-middleweight title eliminator. The winner will earn the No. 1 ranking and possible challenge to the sanctioning body’s 154-pound champion, Carlos Molina.
“I win this fight and this can actually change my life,” Hernandez said before a workout Friday at Caicedo’s Training Center in South Miami. “I know I’m in position to fight for the title and in this boxing game a win over [Brundage] can get me big fights.”
The IBF, the major organization that doesn’t have absurd titles such as interim or super champions, creates vacancies in the top two positions of every weight class. Once the positions are filled, fighters could eventually fight an additional eliminator or earn a direct world title fight.
Golden Boy Promotions won the purse bid to promote the Bundrage-Hernandez fight for $11,000. Bundrage, a former IBF junior-middleweight titleholder, is the higher-ranked fighter and will earn 60 percent of the purse.
“I wanted to fight this guy since we were with [former] promoter Don King,” said Hernandez, 29, who is a Miami native. “He never wanted to sign the contract. Now we’re fighting for less money.
“The money is not the issue for this fight. It is the opportunity for my career to finally go to the next level. I feel like I’m fighting the right guy at the right time. He has been at the high level.”
Bundrage (32-5, 19 KOs) won the IBF crown with a fifth-round technical knockout win over Cory Spinks in 2010. Bundrage, who turns 41 in April, made two successful defenses before losing the belt against Ishe Smith in February 2013.
“He’s always been a hard-nosed guy that comes forward and has a big right hand,” Hernandez said of Bundrage. “There’s always that one fight when they don’t look the same.”
Hernandez (23-1-1, 13 KOs) will attempt to negate Bundrage’s championship experience with youth and quickness.
“I’m looking to use my lateral movement, speed and youth,” Hernandez said. “The way I move is going to give him a lot of trouble.”
Hernandez also is enthused about reuniting with former trainer Herman Caicedo, who worked with Hernandez earlier in his career.
“I left to work with a couple of other trainers, but this is home,” Hernandez said. “Herman knows how to push me hard in training camp. I’ve put 100 percent into this fight. I have no excuses. I’ve had 80 to 100 rounds of sparring. This is the fight of my life and I’m ready.”
Around the ring
• Miami resident Azea Augustama won a lopsided unanimous decision against Jermain Mackey in the main event of a show late Saturday at Casino Miami Jai-Alai.
Augustama (16-1) maintained a busy approach and hurt a game Mackey (18-7) with solid combinations throughout the eight-round light-heavyweight bout. Two judges scored the fight for Augustama 79-73, and the third had him winning 80-72.
On the same card, Miami resident Hairon Socarras scored a fourth-round technical knockout over Jamal Parram. A junior-featherweight, Socarras is now 10-0-1 with 7 KOs.
• Jean Pascal won a unanimous decision against Lucian Bute in a light-heavyweight bout between former world champions Saturday in Montreal. All three judges scored the fight for Pascal 117-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
Heavyweights Mike Perez and Carlos Takam fought to a majority draw in the bout preceding the Pascal-Bute match. Two judges scored the fight 95-95, and the third scored it for Takam 96-94.
• Jose Sulaiman, who served as president of the World Boxing Council for 38 years, died of heart failure Thursday in Los Angeles. A native of Mexico, Sulaiman had been hospitalized since October. He was 82.