As a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, Nico Hernandez represents the future of boxing in America, particularly among fans interested in lower-weight class competition.
The 22-year-old Hernandez, the reigning International Boxing Association (IBA) World flyweight champion in only five pro fights, overcame many obstacles to get where he is in boxing, especially growing up and training in a non-traditional boxing home like Wichita.
A natural athlete who was a successful wrestler and cross country runner, despite little if any experience when he first started competing for North High School, Nico boxes in memory of his close friend, Tony Losey, out of Hernandez Boxing Academy in North Wichita.
The two “brothers” were trained by Nico’s father, Lewis Hernandez, in an old firehouse transformed into a boxing gym, Northside 316 Boxing Club. Nico and Tony supported each other as Hernandez won gold medals at the National Junior Olympics in 2011 and 2012, while Losey became the No. 3-rated welterweight in the United States.
They dreamed of competing together in the Olympics, however, Tony died in a 2014 industrial accident. Nico, though, felt like Tom was with him in Brazil last year, when he captured an Olympic bronze medal in the light flyweight division.
The resilient Hernandez twice failed to qualify for the USA Olympic Boxing Team before he eventually qualified on his third attempt. A relative unknown on the International amateur boxing scene, he became one of the feel-good stories of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, culminating with him winning a bronze medal.
In the semifinals of the Olympic light flyweight competition, Hernandez started slowly against Asian champion Hasanboy Dusmatoc, of Uzebekistan, his southpaw opponent. An accidental head-butt in the second round left Hernandez with a bloody face and blurred vision. The ring doctor cleaned up Nico for the third round but it was a case of too little, too late for Hernandez who lost, 3-0, by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Dusmatoc went on to defeat Yurberjen Herney Martinez, of Colombia, for the gold medal.
Hernandez reached “rock-star status” in Wichita as the city’s first Olympic medalist since 1984, when Lynette Woodward and Marc Waldie, respectively, won gold medals as members of the women’s basketball and men’s volleyball teams. Nico was the first Wichita native to win an individual Olympic medal since runner Jim Ryun won a silver medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Nico completed his amateur boxing career with an outstanding 123-12record, including top honors as an eight-rime Ringside World Champion and six-time consecutive (first time ever) Silver Glove National Champion, in addition to being the 2014 National Golden Gloves Championship and USA Youth Men’s National Championship (2013) gold medalist.
In his professional debut March 25, 2017 at Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas, Hernandez drew nearly 3,200 paying customers for his impressive fifth-round technical knockout of Patrick Gutierrez in the main event, which aired live on CBS Sports Network.
Hernandez closed out 2017 with a pair of fights at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas, stopping Jose Rodriguez in the third round (June 17) and then winning a six-round unanimous decision against Kendrick Latchman.
Last February at Hartman Arena, despite fighting a late replacement who outweighed him by a substantial margin, Hernandez knocked out Victor Torres in the fifth round to capture the vacant IBA Americas flyweight crown.
In the first world title fight ever held in Kansas, as well as his first scheduled12-round fight, Hernandez overwhelmed his Hungarian opponent, 14-7 Szilveszter Kanalas, who was knocked out in the opening round at Kansas Star Arena, and Hernandez became world champion in only his fifth pro fight.
Hernandez, who became an IBA world champion in the fewest pro fights ever, joined a Who’s Who list of former IBA world champions, including Hall-of-Famers Oscar de la Hoya, George Foreman, Roberto Duran and Arturo Gatti, as well as stars such as Roy Jones, Jr., Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosely, James Toney, Mikkel Kessler, Eric Morales, Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver.
Nico Hernandez, who works with his father as a lube tech at a Wichita area trucking company, is promoted by KO Night Boxing, managed/trained by his father, Lewis Hernandez, and Israel Villa serves as his assistant coach/cut-man.