Part of Nico Hernandez’s story is already written in ink.
It’s a story told in the five tattoos on the body of the 20-year-old Olympic boxer and Wichita native — in ways even he has a hard time describing sometimes.
“(The tattoos) are me, it’s who I am,” Hernandez said. “And the thing I like about them, is that they all mean something. They all mean something about what made me who I am today … they’re things that tell the story of my family and myself and, I guess, how I got to this point.”
Some of the tattoos, with his recent success, have even taken on a life of their own – a sprawling tattoo over the left side of his chest got the cartoon treatment in a recent tweet from the popular Twitter account @tykeland that turns famous athletes and celebrities into child-like, comic caricatures.
Hernandez’s Tykes-made image, in the front row with the other USA Boxing Olympians, is holding up a No. 1 symbol, tank top on and with the tattoo prominently displayed.
“I thought that was actually pretty cool,” Hernandez said, smiling. “I think the fans really like stuff like that.”
Hernandez is currently going back-and-forth between Wichita and Colorado Springs to the Olympic Training Center in preparation for August’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he’ll fight as a light flyweight. He will head to New York at the beginning of the May for a press junket.
Here’s a look at the ink that tells Hernandez’s story.
In 1991, Nico’s parents, Lewis and Chello, had twin boys that died within three weeks of being born — they were named Nico and Miguel.
Five years later, they gave their new son one of his older brother’s names.
“That’s where (Nico) has always said he gets his strength,” Lewis said. “From the two of them. From the memory of his brothers … he always thinks about them.”
Nico has “In Loving Memory” tattooed across his shoulder blades above intertwined Mexican and American flags and a pair of boxing gloves. He has “Nico & Lewis” written in cursive below that, and said he’s going to add Miguel’s name soon.
“I have tattoos, and some of them don’t mean much at all, they were just things I thought were cool at the time,” Lewis said. “I told him if he was going to get some, they should mean something to him. They should relate to his life.”
On Hernandez’s left arm, from his shoulder to midway down his biceps, a boxer kneels in his corner of the ring and prays, “USA” prominently displayed on the back of his trunks – it’s the newest of his five tattoos.
“That’s for me, because that’s what I do every time before I fight,” Hernandez said. “I kneel down and I pray and I give thanks.”
Where you from?
On the outside of his right leg, right below the knee, Hernandez has “316” in big, black numbers, for Wichita’s area code.
“That’s for where I’m from, obviously,” Hernandez said. “I like to rep Wichita. I’m proud of being from here. I like to let people know.”
Hernandez’s other tattoo dedicated to his family – his left forearm covered with his mother’s name, “Chello” with large, red roses around it.
“My family and I are close, like as close as you can be,” Hernandez said. “They’re the reason I’ve made it to where I am today. Having my mom’s name there, that’s just another way of showing her I love her.”
Covering the left part of his chest there’s a bible verse — Philippians 4:13 — framed by rays of light bursting through clouds. “Blessed” is written in cursive toward the top of clouds.
It reads: “I can do all Things through Christ Who strengthens me.”
“That’s always been my favorite verse,” Hernandez said. “I’m very religious and I come from a very religious family. My faith is very important to me.”