WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The year 2016 brought professional boxer Nico Hernandez joy in the form of an Olympic bronze medal in the Rio Olympics. It also brought strife as his training facility caught fire in early November.
Now, 10 months later, he’s back to joy as the Hernandez Boxing Academy officially re-opens its renovated structure at 1901 N. Market, just in time for Nico’s third professional bout.
“It means a lot, you know this is where I grew up, this is where I started at,” Hernandez said Thursday.
In the months between the fire and the re-opening of Hernandez Boxing Academy, Nico trained in a two bedroom home in north Wichita. To make his new facility possible, local companies pitched in and installed everything from the pavement to the security system.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, Nico wouldn’t probably be standing here, probably be out in California or Texas or somewhere so we appreciate that,” said Lewis Hernandez, Nico’s father and trainer. “We’re trying to bring something good to Wichita.”
Because Kansas isn’t a prime state for the sport of boxing, Nico briefly thought about leaving for training. But he decided to stay, and picked up wins in his first two professional bouts.
“We made it work, but it’s so much better being in here and being in the ring and with the heavier bags and just that atmosphere, with the whole team here,” said Nico. “Everybody’s just happy to be back.”
Wichita vice mayor Janet Miller was at the ribbon-cutting Thursday, crediting Hernandez Boxing Academy as somewhat of a pillar in the north Wichita community.
“It’s more than a gym, it’s more than a place to train,” explained Miller. “This building represents opportunity.”
Nico faces off on Saturday at Hartman Arena against Francisco “Guerrero” Lapizco. Fights begin at 6 p.m.