As he enters the final phase of his career, Livan Hernandez already envisions life beyond the profession that made him one of baseball’s most durable pitchers of the past 15 years.
Winner of 178 major-league games, Hernandez has played enough golf in his spare time from baseball and now believes he is a worthy candidate to participate in the celebrity tour.
But Hernandez also has a deep appreciation for another sport few outside his inner circle likely knew about the Cuba native who played a pivotal role in leading the Florida Marlins to the 1997 World Series championship.
Hernandez, 37, is a huge boxing fan. Reverence for the sport now has led Hernandez to become a fight manager.
“This is a new venture for me, but it is something that I have been considering for a couple of years,” Hernandez said. “In Cuba, if you liked sports, you followed baseball and boxing. I have followed boxing since I was a youngster.”
Hernandez’s upstart company, Team Knockout, currently features one fighter, Cuban cruiserweight Yunier Dorticos. Unbeaten in his first 13 fights with 13 knockouts, Dorticos is Hernandez’s pet project before expanding his stable of fighters.
“Dorticos is the first champion we are going to have,” Hernandez said. “I believe in his potential. The important thing is that he has the proper guidance.
“We speak in depth about challenges life presents. I let Dorticos know about the struggles I went through at the beginning of my career.”
The blueprint for the upstart company’s success lies on Dorticos’ possible accomplishments and Hernandez’s name identity among his compatriots. Eventually, Hernandez would like to tap into the growing list of Cuban fighters who have left the island for professional stardom. According to the boxing record-keeping website boxrec, in 2012 there were 56 active Cuban fighters who began their careers in the country’s amateur system.
“There are so many Cuban fighters that now want to make the huge splash as professionals,” Hernandez said. “They had tremendous success as Olympians and are talented enough to become successful professional fighters.
“But they should also know that all is not about winning fights. To be a respected professional, you need to express yourself the correct way. When representing yourself, wear the business suit instead of caps and chains. Talent is important, but appearance and demeanor also count in your potential success.”
Although not yet completely immersed in negotiating bouts for his fighter, Hernandez believes he will succeed when dealing with promoters and TV networks.
“Negotiations sometimes will be tense, but the main thing is that I have my fighter’s trust,” Hernandez said. “We will do everything possible for them to get paid their worth and become champions.
“I understand the difficult sacrifices fighters go through. They get up at 6 in the morning to run and then go through demanding workouts. I have practiced kickboxing and the soreness I felt in my shoulders is more rigorous than pitching three straight complete games.”
A Miami resident since defecting from Cuba in 1996, Hernandez believes South Florida could eventual rival Las Vegas for marquee bouts, but it will require breakthroughs from locally based fighters.
Hernandez emphasizes the potential 122-pound, title-unification bout between Cuba native and two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux and the Philippines’ Nonito Donaire, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
“If Rigondeaux defeats Nonito, then he will have the advantage in negotiating the rematch. This is when we have an opportunity of bringing the fight to a place like AmericanAirlines Arena. I am confident that if that happens, the fight can sell out here.”
Although it might seem as if boxing takes up his time nowadays, Hernandez still awaits another call from a major-league team. Currently a free agent, Hernandez split time as a reliever with the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers last season.
“I plan on playing, but if things don’t work out, I am going to take this year off,” Hernandez said. “The important factor is improving the fastball to 90-92 miles per hour.
“If I get a call from a team in May or June, perhaps I will play this year. Although I feel great, I want to feel even better. I am confident that I still have a few years left in baseball.”