Holm prepares for Hernandez
Story & photos by Chris Cozzone
Despite a noisy beginning at an October press conference from the always-outspoken Melissa Hernandez, the four weeks of preparation for Holly Holm has been pretty quiet.
“It’s been business as usual,” says Holm.
Well, sort of, anyway.
On Friday, Holm, 25-1-3, 7 KOs, will defend her WIBA welterweight belt at a jr. welterweight catchweight of 140 pounds, against Hernandez, 11-1-2, 4 KOs, the current WIBA 130-pound champion.
Several factors set this fight apart from previous ones.
For one, it’ll be the first time in Holm’s career that trainer Mike Winkeljohn hasn’t been able to have an active, physical hand in training.
In September, Winkeljohn was holding the mitts for one of his MMA fighters when a high kick sent a toenail slicing through his right eyeball. The freak accident has left Winkeljohn near-blind in one eye – hopefully, not for long – and unable to participate in physical training.
“I can still do a few things,” says Winkeljohn, who’s managed to stay optimistic. “I’ve just been unable to get in the ring.
“Holly knows what to do, and training hasn’t suffered in the least.”
Holm admits that there’s been more distractions, this time around, but that she is not only on weight but in top shape for Friday night.
“Without Mr. Wink holding the mitts, it’s forced me to rely more on myself – and that’s been good for me,” says Holm.
“It’s also been a good thing for us, as a team, because we’re all now helping each other more. But he’s still there, right outside the ring. He’s still telling us what to do, so we feel pretty normal.”
Holm vs. Hernandez also marks the first time in years that Boxrec’s No. 1 rated fighters in different divisions are matched up. Therein lies the debate, however, for Holm is seen by most as the top welterweight in female boxing, while Hernandez is considered the best at 130 pounds.
“People are making a big deal about the weight, but they forget that naturally I’m a 140-pounder who always goes up to 147 and 154.
“I’m at my best fighting at 140.”
Holm hasn’t fought at, or below, jr. welter since weighing in at 139 in 2007, when she fought Chevelle Hallback at Tingley. But making weight presents no problem – Holm was walking around at 146 more than ten days before fight night.
“Melissa is at her best at 126, but she’s taken fights as heavy as 135,” says Holm. “It’s not like ‘David vs. Goliath.’ She’s not a hero who’s taking a fight with a giant.”
Even Hernandez has waved off the weight and size difference, calling herself not only the female Manny Pacquiao, but no less than the personification of women’s boxing.
Since October’s press conference, however, Hernandez has been pretty quiet.
“There’s been a little back-and-forth talk, but she’s been less noisy,” says Holm. “It tells me she’s taking this seriously and is training hard.”
Trainer Winkeljohn, however, feels the weight – and talent – will prove too much for Hernandez.
“Melissa is very talented, but, all in all, she’s small for Holly,” says Winkeljohn. “She’ll fight her at range all day long.
“Taking this fight was a huge mistake for Melissa.”