“ShoBox: The New Generation” has always been a go-to for any died-in-the-wool boxing fan looking to scout the “next big thing”. Over the years the show has pitted many a rising prospect against one another in an effort to see who has leveled out and who will go on. June 9th of 2017 was a particularly intriguing episode, as two up-and-comers with world potential in Regis Prograis and Joel Diaz Jr. squared off in a 140-pound showdown. On the undercard was Canadian Steve Rolls (15-0 at the time) and Jon Fernandez, a skinny Spaniard who had amassed a 12-0, 10 KOs mark.
The sight of a 5’10” 130-pound boxer is interesting enough, but the fact that he was a mere 21 years of age perked my ears up even more. Then came the match itself, a scheduled eight-rounder against Juan Reyes, a tough Mexican with a volume attack but little punching power. Reyes came out of the gate trying to overwhelm the youngster, while Fernandez tried timing him with counters. It took about a minute-and-a-half into the opening stanza but “Jonfer” began figuring out his range. He displayed an impressive uppercut and an array of punches seldom seen in professionals anymore—rarely was he tossing one punch at a time.
In round two Fernandez came out firing behind his jab, doubling it, even tripling it. That setup counter shots that were quickly paying dividends. Most of all, it was laser-designating his heavy right hand that began landing with frightening frequency. With about 28-seconds left before the gong sounded, one detonated off the side of Reyes’ head, flattening him for about a minute. The replays showed that it wasn’t the straightest shot, but the jab blinded him right beforehand and he didn’t see the follow up coming.
The Sergio Martinez-managed prospect looks to do much of the same against his gritty April 20th foe Juan Huertas, 14-1-1, 10 KOs. The 25-year-old Panamanian hasn’t been yet stopped and shouldn’t lay down, but he doesn’t look to have the ability to compete here. He’s a stepping stone to better things.
So far Martinez has done a fine job maneuvering Fernandez and I imagine he won’t have him waiting too long before stepping up to fringe-level guys, especially with 130 pounds thinning out with the loss of Vasyl Lomachenko and Gervonta Davis. All that remains is a good but unspectacular list of names in Miguel Berchelt, Alberto Machado, Miguel Roman, Francisco Vargas, Jezreel Corrales, etc.—a few which are banged up from wars.
Any fan who has followed the sport long enough can tell you that the sport is riddled with talented bodies who for some reason or another couldn’t make the cut. Jon Fernandez doesn’t look like one of those fall-offs. His size, work rate, power, and body punching aren’t a package that comes around often. Add in that he has a man backing him who is familiar with the innerworkings of the sport and I believe you have a winning tandem.