WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – With less than a month to go before he makes his pro debut, Wichita Olympic boxer Nico Hernandez is hard at work training for the fight, and there’s nothing that’s holding him back from making his dreams come true.
One would think an Olympic champion would be training at some elite gym. In reality, though, he’s not. In fact, since his gym went up in flames, he and his coach are doing things very old school.
That “old school” is a house in north Wichita where the keys to success are determination, work ethic, and dedication.
“I know God’s got better plans for us, so I don’t sweat it,” said Nico’s dad, Lewis Hernandez. “It is what it is.”
Nico’s training facility, if you can call it that, is not the most ideal training ground, but for Lewis, and Nico, and the young athletes in training, what once was a bedroom is now their gym. Turns out, that’s where Nico’s journey began, in a bedroom in North Wichita.
“To me, this house represents Wichita, Kansas where Nico came from,” said Lewis. “Not a big-boxing state, like this is not a big-boxing gym. It started out small, but then it grew.”
Eventually, Lewis Hernandez opened up his own gym, Northside Boxing Academy. It became a place for Nico to grow and Wichita’s youth to escape the streets.
“Like a safe keep, you know to belong to something besides a gang,” Lewis said.
However, that safe haven is no more, for the time being. Last November, a fire destroyed part of Northside Boxing Academy. Since then, crews have been working to reopen the gym, but structural issues have gotten in the way, forcing Lewis to revert back to his family’s humble beginnings.
“Yeah, we started in a bedroom, so I mean that’s where we start again, in a bedroom,” said Lewis. “It’s tough, but you have to do what you have to do. You have no choice but to push.”
That’s the message Lewis stands by; No matter who you are, where you’re from or what you’ve accomplished, if you want to win, you need to want that badly. Very badly.
“I’d rather be poor than rich, than be rich and have to be poor because you don’t ever know what it’s like,” Lewis said. “But here, we have been.”
“We make it work,” said Nico.
Nico’s pro debut is set for Saturday, March 25 at the Kansas Star Casino. As for Northside Boxing Academy, there’s no date set for he it will reopen.