It's True. The Good Indeed Die Young By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (June 9, 2011) Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
For the last several years,
former two-time super featherweight championGenaro
battled a rare form of cancer that had plagued his neck and head. It was
thought to be in remission in 2009, only to return in 2010. Throughout it all,
the humble man we called “Chicanito” fought valiantly. Once a fixture at ringside,
where he played various roles from commentating on fights for Spanish networks
to his duties for CompuBox, no matter what condition he was in, Hernandez was
always in good spirits.
You didn't have to ask how
he felt. You could see it. Whether it was his emaciated look, the hair loss or
the hue of his skin, you knew this was a sick man. In recent times, we'd see
less of Genaro but through it all, he was, at his core, the same guy that made
him a universally beloved figure in the boxing community.
Hernandez would constantly
speak of fighting the good fight and staying positive, not just for himself but
his wife Liliana and his two kids, Amanda (age 19) and Steven (age 11). He had
too much to live for- prom dates to give the once over to, graduations to
attend, kids to send off to college and eventually becoming a grandfather.
Hernandez’s real life was just heading into the middle rounds.
Hernandez knew he was a
heavy underdog but the fighter who was once inflicted with brittle hands kept punching
as long as he could.
On May 4th, his
brother,Rudy Hernandez,sent out this text message: "My brother will be sent home and take
the weekend to spend with his family because it could be the last one he has with
them outside of the hospital. His cancer got aggressive and took over."
“Chicanito” fought the good
fight but he knew it was time to throw in the towel.Chemotherapy,which had taken so much from him,
could do no more. This past Tuesday at 3:04 PM, at his home in Mission Viejo,
CA, he passed away, surrounded by his family and loved ones.
I'm sure most of you know
about his career inside the ring, where he cut his teeth as a boxer at the
Great Western Forum. Hernandez eventually captured the 130-pound title twice,
once memorably againstAzumah Nelson(when he decided to fight on instead of forcing a disqualification for a
punch after the bell) and his disappointing night againstOscar De La Hoyaand a career-ending performance versusFloyd Mayweather were
the only two losses in his 41-fight career. He was a skilled practitioner of
the “Sweet Science” who used his freakish size (5’11”) as a 130-pounder to
artfully outbox his foes. Hernandez wasn't necessarily spectacular but he was a
steady and polished prizefighter. As his record shows, you had to be more than
just “good” to defeat him.
But why he was so well-liked
and respected really had nothing to do with his accomplishments inside the
ring. It was the person he was outside of it. Whether you were a fellow world champion,
media member, trainer, cutman or fan, you could not find a nicer, more gracious
individual. Hernandez was the very definition of humility and grace. Genaro was
a better individual than he was a boxer; there is no debating that.
His brother, also a former fighter
(ultimately becoming his trainer), says, "He was a genuine gentleman, as [Top
Rank matchmaker] Bruce Trampler put it. He was a genuine gentleman."
There was an everyman quality
and a certain normalcy to Hernandez and in many ways, he was the embodiment of
that. While he had a storied career and made some money, he still had to go out
into the real world and make a living for his family as he retired, which was
just fine by him. If that involved boxing, even better. What Rudy will remember
most about his brother is, "that he never thought he was better than
anybody else and that his whole thing was if he could only be treated equally
to a guy who was a four-round fighter, then he could be happy with that. It
took him a long time to get used to the fact that people called him
This reporter began covering
boxing back in 1996 (Where does the time go?) and the now-closed L.A. Boxing
was the first gym I visited on a regular basis. It was there where I secured my
first relationships with world-class fighters like Hernandez and an
up-and-coming lightweight that was the best-kept secret on the West Coast by
the name ofShane Mosley.
They were frequent sparring partners (and it was Mosley that broke Hernandez's
nose before his bout against De La Hoya in 1995, effectively taking away any
chance he had of beating the “Golden Boy”) and as I found out like anyone else,
Hernandez was as accommodating as any athlete I have ever covered.
From being a guest on my
radio show (the long-lost “Main Event” on KIEV and later, XTRA 1150) to
coverage from my early days as a scribe at HouseofBoxing.com, Hernandez
could always be counted on to be a real pro. After his retirement in 1998, he
would jump over to our side of the ropes and work as a member of the media as
an analyst. He was eventually hired by Top Rank (whose leader Bob Arum, sans
fanfare, covered the cost of Hernandez's medical bills along with Akihiko Honda of Teiken
Promotions and the WBC) to do their international broadcasts.
As news of Hernandez’s
passing spread through the boxing world, I received this email from Rick Seara,
who, at the time, was the executive producer of those telecasts:
I know you are aware already. I just wanted to say that some of my funnest
memories were with you and Genaro working together in the States and in Mexico. You guys made a
good team and always brought out the best in each other. Heaven just got classier
with a great champion." Rick
For the better part of a year
between 1999 and 2000, it was “Chicanito” and me behind the mic. Being that we
both lived in Southern California, we would get booked on the same flights in
and out of LAX, traveling to the likes of Madison, Wisconsin, Boise, Idaho and
Chihuahua, Mexico, calling variousfight cards. We had a
familiar pattern. We'd fly in together, share a cab, get our per diem from Top
Rank site coordinator Jay Edson (another real “boxing guy” who is greatly missed)
and then go eat. Hernandez and I had some great memories on the road. Running
like hell in Madison from a torrential downpour in the middle of August after
eating dinner at a local diner. Genaro somehow getting us upgraded to
first-class on the way home to Los Angeles one time after just chatting with
the ticket agent in St. Paul. Calling the classic first encounter betweenMarco Antonio BarreraandErik Morales(we were actually on the ring apron right next to the HBO crew) at the
Mandalay Bay. In the immediate aftermath of thatpitched battle, Arum- who promoted “El
Terrible”- looked down at us from the ring and asked who we had winning. In
unison, we blurted out, “Barrera.” Arum just rolled his eyes. Then there was
the time just minutes from the first edition of Shane Mosley-Oscar De La Hoya
at the Staples Center when I lost my color guy because he was also committed to
work for HBO Latino (Hey, the guy was in demand). Seara nearly had a heart
attack and just like that, I was a solo act that evening.
Those were good times. I learned
a lot about boxing from Hernandez but what I really learned was what type of
person he was. There was not one time I can recall that he turned down an
autograph or a photo for an admiring fan or anyone that wanted to strike up a
conversation with him about boxing as he hung out in the hotel lobby. From a
grassroots level, Hernandez was as good an ambassador as the sport ever had. He
was boxing's version of Will Rogers.
This past weekend, his former colleague at CompuBox, Joe Carnicelli, let everyone
in press row at the Staples Center know that things were looking grave for our
friend. Word spread quickly; most of us already knew but just hearing it again
At age 45, a life well lived was coming to an end. Thisupcoming Mondaystarting at 11 AM, services in
Hernandez’s honor will be held at the Resurrection Church in East Los Angeles
(3324 Opal St. The cross streets are 8th and Lorena). He will be
buried with his WBC belt around his waist, his Teiken jumpsuit on and a pair of
boxing gloves on his hands. Yeah, he's a fighter…even now. His brother says, "I
hope a lot of people show up and I want his son, who's only 11 years old…I hope
that he can see the impact on who his dad was."
Rudy said his goodbyeon Sunday
lay in bed.
"I was literally on top of him, face-to-face, and I told him, 'We did
good, huh?' and the big ol' smile of his, he just gave me that smile and he
said, 'Yeah, we did good' and he shook his head like, 'Yeah, we did really good'
and then he just kinda laid back on that pillow and he pretty much went into
rest that night.
"He went to sleep and that's the last time we ever saw him smile."