Genaro Hernandez Passes
Boxing is saddened by the passing of a great champion and an even bigger class act. Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez passed away yesterday after a long battle with a rare form of cancer.
Anyone who ever met Hernandez will corroborate my assessment of this man: Humble, friendly, and oozing with class. As a young boxing fan in So Cal, I met a lot of fighters and none made me feel as good as Hernandez did. He asked me questions, gave me a pat on the head, and told me to keep working hard. As he left the room, he scanned the room looking for me, giving me a wink before he made his exit. It’s an image I’ll never forget.
Longtime fight fans in So Cal might remember Genaro’s brother Rudy, who won the first-ever of a popular tournament format that became a staple at the Forum. Word is Rudy put Forum-owner Jerry Buss in tears as he emotionally revelaed to Buss that he would take the money he won to help his uncle get an eye surgery. Rudy would end up being Genaro’s trainer.
Hernandez turned pro in 1984. His talent was unmistakeable–a nearly 6-foot junior lightweight whose ruggedness belied his flimsy frame. His rise to the top did not happen overnight, as Hernandez waited 7 long years for his shot, beating Daniel Londas for the vacant WBA belt in 1991.
For the first couple years of Hernandez’ reign, he split time between the Forum and Japan–defeating two of their top contenders. Chicanito made 8 defenses, including wins over toughies like Raul Perez, Harold Warren, and Jorge Paez.
In 1995, he moved up in weight to notch a nice payday, losing by TKO to the more robust Oscar De La Hoya. But after 2 get-well ins, he was ready to make amends, taking on Junior Lightweight Champ-extraordinaire Azumah Nelson. The Ghanaian great was a little long in the tooth, but was in the midst of a late-career revival, having just scored consecutive knockouts over younger champions Gabriel Ruelas and Jesse James Leija.
It would be a bout that would characterize the grit and character of Hernandez. In the 7th round, Nelson hit Hernandez on the throat after the bell. Hernandez laid on the floor for at least five minutes. It looked to all those in attendance and watching on TV that Hernandez would take the DQ. He didn’t have to fight.
But that wasn’t what Chicanito was all about. He dusted himself off, shook off the pain, and proceeded to outbox the master to notch a split decision win. That embodied his spirit as a fighter. Hernandez would close out his second 130-pound reign with 3 more good defenses over rising talent, before running into the boxing genius of Floyd Mayweather, who stopped Hernandez after 8 rounds. It would be the only 130-pound bout Hernandez would ever lose.
Hernandez made enough money to take his family out of East LA, eventually settling in a nice home in Mission Viejo. His legacy is one of excellence and class. You won’t find anyone who has a bad word to say about the guy. Sometimes when a man passes away, his tribute can be hyperbolic, where only the good stuff is remembered. With Chicanito, there is no overstating what a good guy he was. My condolences go out to his family, who should find some peace in the fact he will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to know him. Rest in peace Genaro.