Sports

Wichita boxer Nico Hernandez turns pro

The Wichita Eagle

A bronze medal from the Olympics. A city-wide parade in his honor. And now this: a professional contract.

All before Nico Hernandez turns 21.

The 20-year-old Wichita native announced on his Instagram account that he has agreed to make his professional debut on Dec. 10 in Omaha at the CenturyLink Center. Hernandez does not know his opponent yet, but he does know the fight is scheduled for four rounds at the 115-pound weight class and will be on the undercard of the main event featuring WBC/WBO light welterweight champion Terence Crawford and John Molina Jr.

“It’s a good time for him to start escalating his career,” said Lewis Hernandez, Nico’s father and trainer, when reached by phone on Monday. “I wouldn’t say it was an easy decision, but I felt like now was the right time for Nico to make a move and he thought the same way. We might as well start progressing his career at an early age and who knows, he might end up being a world champion by the age of 23 or 24.”

While Nico Hernandez technically retains his eligibility to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, it is a rarity in boxing for fighters once they turn professional to return to the Olympics.

Lewis Hernandez said Nico has agreed to fight with Top Rank, one of the country’s premier boxing promotion companies, for his first bout, but said that he has not yet signed a deal with any promoter.

It is a goal of Lewis Hernandez to bring Nico’s second professional fight somewhere close to his hometown.

20­year­old Wichita native Nico Hernandez makes his Olympic debut in Rio as light flyweight boxer (108 lbs). “When I’m in the ring, I’m just thinking about my family and making a better life for them,” Hernandez said.

“We’ve still got a lot of decisions to make on who we want to sign with or if we want to sign with anybody at all,” Lewis Hernandez said. “We’re still trying to find the best fit. At the end of the day, we’re trying to make the right decision for Nico.”

The announcement comes in the midst of chaos for the family, as the gym Nico had trained at for years, Northside Boxing Academy, burned down on Saturday morning.

“It’s been a rough time for all of us,” Lewis Hernandez said. “We’re dealing with a lot of adversity, as far as not having a gym to train in. We’re going to have to make adjustments and make sure we get done what we need to get done to be ready for this fight. Not only trying to train, but also be mentally and emotionally strong too. This is a big blow for us, so we’re still dealing with that.”

A parade through north Wichita, along with a ceremony at North High, honored Wichita's Nico Hernandez on Saturday. Hernandez won a bronze medal in boxing at the Olympics in Rio. (Video by Travis Heying and Manny De Los Santos)

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