Former two-time North American Boxing Federation Middleweight champ Art Hernandez was so fast, so slippery, Ron Stander once said of him, “I couldn’t hit Art with a handful of rice.”
Hernandez came from a family that would see four brothers fight professionally. He had an outstanding amateur career, winning the Midwest Golden Gloves title five times. As a pro, Hernandez would not get the chance for a world title fight. He did however fight five former or future world champions during his career: Sugar Ray Robinson, Sandro Mazzinghi, Denny Moyer, Emile Griffith and Nino Benvenuti.
He retired in 1973 with a final record of 44-20-2, and in 1976 was inducted into the Great Plains Boxing Hall of Fame.
(SM) Mr. Hernandez, pleasure to speak with you. For the fans who never saw you fight, what was your style?
(AH) I was more of a boxer, that's how my dad taught me to fight.
(SM) So how did you first get into boxing and how old were you?
(AH) I was fourteen I think. My dad was a boxer as well and he brought us all up like that. All my brothers fought as well.
(SM) What were your highlights as an amateur?
(AH) I won the Midwest Golden Gloves title five years. I was a Flyweight, a Bantamweight, a Lightweight and then won two titles as a Middleweight. I went to Chicago in 1960 for the nationals but lost in the quarterfinals.
(SM) Do you remember your first pro fight back in 1961?
(AH) Oh yes, against Ray Terry. We came out in the middle of the ring and he hit me and I went down. After that it was all me.
(SM) It was over a year before your second fight, why?
(AH) He hit me real hard! Hurt my jaw pretty bad. It wasn't broke but was so damn sore I couldn't talk. I did consider quitting at that point. I began to watch all the fights on TV and thought
that I could do it too, so I started back up again.
(SM) You fought a draw with Sugar Ray Robinson in 1964, what did you think of that decision?
(AH) Oh, I thought it was bad. I thought I won. I think they gave it a draw based on Robinson's name.
(SM) You went to Rome in 1965 to take on Nino Benvenuti. What happened in that fight?
(AH) I got my eye cut in about the third or fourth round. He was a big hitter you know, and a good fighter.
(SM) How did you feel about the decision in the Emile Griffith fight?
(AH) Oh, I thought it was very bad. I thought I won that fight, there was no doubt in my mind I won that fight.
(SM) How did you get involved in the trip to Vietnam in 1970 and what was that like?
(AH) I got a call from Lew Eskin who was going over with Jose Torres and they just asked me to go. It was nice to see the troops and everything. We were very well received and did some exhibitions.
(SM) The first Denny Moyer fight you lost by unanimous decision. I had read a story awhile back that you and your brother went out partying the night before the fight?
(AH) Yea we did. (laughing) I don't think that was common but when I got together with my brother we were just no good!
I had to go in the steam room and lose about six or seven pounds the day of the fight.
(SM) Did the weight issues bother you towards the latter part of your career?
(AH) Yeah it really did, it was a struggle to make weight and stay in shape.
(SM) 1973 was a bad year for you, three KO losses. Was it hard to leave the game at that point?
(AH) Oh yeah, it was hard. I didn't want to go back in the ring after that. I was in the gym one day when my little brother was training, he was 135 lbs at that time. We were sparring and he
kind of hit me on the top of the head with a punch and I just blacked out. I just thought at the time that I was done with it. I never fought again.
(SM) Who was the toughest guy you ever fought?
(AH) Jimmy Lester, real tough guy, real tough fight.
(SM) What was the highest you were ranked in your career?
(AH) Number three, at the same time my brother was ranked two.
(SM) After you retired in 1973 what career did you pursue?
(AH) I didn't do anything for awhile. I then got a job in security at the Douglas County Hospital. I was promoted to Chief of Security along the way and retired after twenty-four years.
(SM) Do you keep up with boxing at all today?
(AH) I follow it when it's a good person that I know. But I hardly know any of the fighters anymore.
(SM) Were you involved with boxing in any capacity after you retired?
(AH) No I wasn't. I knew that fighters were a pain in the butt, like I was , but I never was involved in boxing after I quit.
(SM) Mr. Hernandez, any final words?
(AH) I had a great time. I got to see the world. What a wonderful experience it was for me.
(SM) Mr. Hernandez, thank you for speaking with me.
Writer's Note: Thank you to Tom Lovgren for setting up this interview. Tom has also written a great book on the Hernandez brother's careers. Contact the writer for details.
Ed. Note: Please log on to retiredboxers.com, it is Murphy’s favorite organization.