By Graham Houston
The smaller weight classes continued to provide the best fights with a thrilling Mexican civil war on Saturday night that saw the younger, stronger Adrian Hernandez overwhelm Gilberto Keb Baas in 10 rounds to capture the WBC light-flyweight title.
Keb Baas is a remarkable fighter, who despite having suffered 20 losses turned his career around, winning the 108-pound title with an upset victory over Omar Nino Romero. One of Keb Baas’s losses was to Hernandez — a fourth-round stoppage defeat three years ago when Keb Baas’s career was in a slump. The rematch was a different story, a classic contest between a boxer and a fighter.
Keb Baas, 33, put up a tremendous performance in defeat. He was boxing beautifully at times, jabbing, hooking, plastering Hernandez with combinations.
Hernandez, nose bloodied, kept driving forward, jabbing his way in, always looking to crash home his heavy right hands, and gradually he began to hit the target with greater frequency although it was difficult for him to get in a flush shot due to the veteran’s clever bobbing, weaving and rolling away from punches.
There was a relentless quality about Hernandez, though. If he missed, he kept punching so that if three or four blows went over Keb Baas’s head the next two would land.
As well as Keb Bass fought, to me there was always a sense of the inevitable about the outcome. Keb Baas would launch some blazing combinations, punishing Hernandez to head and body, but the challenger, 11 years the younger man, kept coming right back at him, and the longer it went the more he was catching and hurting the older boxer.
Keb Baas was starting to look puffy around the eyes, and in the seventh round he was pushing his mouthpiece forward so that he could suck in air.
Hernandez was off his stool first for the eighth round, and Keb Baas was under such heavy fire towards the end of the round that referee Jerry Cantu seemed on the verge of stopping the fight. Yet Keb Baas rallied again in the ninth, blasting Hernandez’s body with left hooks although he had to take some hard punches himself.
I just had the sense that Keb Baas was giving more of himself in the 10th than was really good for him. He was still in the fight but getting the worst of it, and he had a point deducted for a low blow. At the end of the round the referee and ringside doctor visited Keb Baas’s corner to have a close look at him, and the decision was made to stop the fight before the start of the 11th round.
Not everyone in the Keb Baas camp agreed with the stoppage, but it is in give-and-take fights such as this that a tiring but game fighter can get hurt — as in seriously hurt.
Keb Baas’s class and courage and Hernandez’s insistent attack and indomitable will made this a memorable fight, and we’ve had several of those already this year — Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion, Orlando Salido vs Juan Manuel Lopez, Marcos Maidana vs Erik Morales, Victor Ortiz vs Andre Berto and now this one. For me, any one of these fights could be a worthy Fight of the Year, which isn’t bad at all considering the year still has eight months to go.