Once again, Genaro Hernandez is a world champion quietly looking in from the outside.
He is in his prime at 27, has never been in trouble, and has been better than everybody put in front of him on his way to and during his two-year reign as the World Boxing Assn.'s junior-lightweight titlist.
He has the style and the belt, the rigorous training schedule and the 28-0-1 record.
But for reasons that only make him shake his head, that one big fight that could make Hernandez famous always seems to elude him.
The latest mishap? Oscar De La Hoya vs. Hernandez, a matchup of East Los Angeles-trained fighters. The rising 20-year-old Olympic star against the veteran champion.
There was a tentative date: Oct. 1. There was a tentative site: the Forum. The payout was decided.
Then it was gone.
De La Hoya's camp decided months ago to scrap the Hernandez bout and move on to other goals, other titles, other matches.
Hernandez still has his title, but as he prepares for his mandatory defense Oct. 11 at the Forum against Harold Warren, Hernandez can't help but wonder if he will ever get a chance to step up to the elite level.
"I think (De La Hoya's) people think I'm not a good opponent right now," Hernandez said after a workout at the Brooklyn Gym. "Maybe they think I could give him his first defeat.
"I don't think the fight will ever happen. If they really wanted the fight, we would have had it in October. So I don't think there's any chance. I'm pretty sure he'll be a junior-welterweight soon.
"It's disappointing because people say what he could do to me and this and that. And I don't think I'm a bad fighter. I've fought some of the best fighters out there. He's barely coming up and already they're saying that if we were to fight, in the late rounds he would drop me and he would win a unanimous decision.
"What are they looking at? You can't compare."
Hernandez also had been thinking of a unification bout against World Boxing Council 130-pound champion Azumah Nelson.
"I was hoping, but from what I hear, he said he'll be moving up to lightweight," Hernandez said. "That's the second time a guy I really wanted to fight has either retired or moved up in weight. I wanted to fight Brian Mitchell for the title, and he retired."
That's three, counting the De La Hoya disappointment.
"I don't know whether it's bad luck or what."
The next option, assuming he defeats the left-handed Warren, is one not open to many 27-year-old champions: actually going down in weight to the 126-pound class to grab another title.
Hernandez, in contrast to most fighters, has no trouble making weight and has come in as light as 128 pounds for a 130-pound defense.
"Right now, I'm at 127," Hernandez said. "What's one more pound to lose? Not much.
"You always see (champions) go up. And I can't do that. I would have to lay off the gym and lie around for about three months to make 135, 136."
Another possibility: Gabriel Ruelas, the Sylmar fighter rated No. 1 by the WBC at 130 pounds. Ruelas would be involved in any box-off if Nelson does vacate the title, then could come back and fight Hernandez for a unification bout in L.A.
Ruelas' promoter, Dan Goossen, sounds as if he wants the matchup immediately.
"Listen, there's only one way Genaro can get out of the situation he's in and bring attention to himself," Goossen said. "And that's to fight one of two guys with reputations: De La Hoya or my guy. And Gabe's the only one I know of who is ready to take the fight.
"He's got to fight somebody to get well known."
Hernandez looks at the situation philosophically.
"Sooner or later we'll meet, I think," he said. "But I think a lot of times the promoters or somebody who's trying to make the fight just don't get along with his people.
"But I think that would be a good fight. Gabriel's a good fighter. I don't underestimate anybody, and especially not Gabriel. I mean, he's a tough guy out there.
"I know I don't get the recognition. I've been champion for what, two years now? But as long as I keep winning and fighting good fights, one way or the other, the recognition will be there."
Promoter Don King, never one to misread the mood of the public and his own plummeting image, tried the high road last week, proposing some reforms in the wake of the uproar over the Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez majority-draw decision.
King asked the three world sanctioning bodies to consider posting round-by-round scoring as the fight progresses and including an overtime if the fight ends up a draw.
Sincere thought or desperate act?
What brought Larry Holmes back again to fight Jose Ribalta Tuesday night on USA Network at Bay St. Louis, Miss.? The chance at a huge payday for the ultimate senior circuit main event: Holmes vs. semi-retired George Foreman, possibly in early 1994 if Foreman agrees.
"If I can't get an opportunity to fight somebody who's going to give me an opportunity to get a nice paycheck, then this might be it," Holmes said. "Tommy Morrison doesn't want to do it. Riddick Bowe doesn't really want to fight anybody. Lennox Lewis doesn't. So there's nothing left but a pair of old guys to put on a pair of gloves and ride off into the sunset." Holmes said he would settle for a 35-65 unfavorable split of the money with Foreman. Bill Caplan, a spokesman for Foreman, said he thought that a deal could be struck on those terms.
Bay St. Louis is also scheduled for another oddity, "The People's Choice World Heavyweight Superfights," a gathering Dec. 3 of heavyweights mediocre and unrecognized, including James (Bonecrusher) Smith, Michael Dokes, Tony Tubbs and Tyrell Biggs. It's supposed to be a one-night tournament for a $1-million first prize, with three-round fights.
World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Bowe will be staging a public workout at the ABC Entertainment Center Thursday at 12:15 p.m. Bowe, who is scheduled to fight Evander Holyfield Nov. 6 at Las Vegas, also will be involved in an exhibition Friday on a card featuring Gerry Coetzee in Sacramento--right after HBO televises the Lewis-Frank Bruno fight from Wales for Lewis' share of the heavyweight title.
Vito Antuofermo, making one of the less eagerly awaited comebacks, is still waiting. His fight in New York next Friday was canceled when the state commission rejected his license application after reviewing findings from his medical examination.
Monday: David Kamau (20-0) vs. Caesar Valdez (13-3-1), junior-welterweights; Stanley Longstreet (19-2) vs. Andres Sandoval (40-15-1), lightweights; Shane Mosley (4-0) vs. Carlos Hernandez (10-0-1), junior-welterweights; Forum, 7:30 p.m.