U.S. Olympian Nico Hernandez
Building Wichita Into A Fight Town
Last Saturday night at Kansas Star Arena in nearby Mulvane,
2016 Olympic bronze medalist Nico Hernandez planted a seed
in hopes of growing Wichita into a fight town, as world
champions Terence Crawford and Deontay Wilder have already
accomplished in the respective hometowns, Omaha (NE) and
More than 3,100 fans purchased tickets Hernandez'
successfully professional debut, stopping Pat Gutierrez in
the fourth round. To put that attendance figure in its
proper perspective, Wichita has a population of less than
400,000 and in this hoop-crazed state, the appropriately
named "KO Night Boxing: History Begins" went head-to-head
with the popular Kansas Jayhawks quintet playing on national
television in the Elite Eight of the NCAA college basketball
championship, as well as The Wichita Force playing at home
in indoor football.
The 21-year-old Hernandez is practically a sports franchise
in Wichita, second only to the Wichita State University
(WSU) men's basketball team. The city turned out in force at
a parade honoring Hernandez upon his return home from the
Olympics and WSU awarded him an open-ended four-year college
"KO Night Boxing: History Begins" Encore Presentation this
The encore presentation of last Saturday's "KO Night Boxing:
History Begins," featuring the pro debut of 2016 Olympic
Bronze medalist Nico Hernandez, will air this Saturday
(April 1), starting at 8:30 p.m. ET, on CBS Sports Network.
"The show was a huge success and Nico, as a pro fighter,
produced a more complete body of work than we had expected,"
Hernandez' promoter John Andersen (KO Night Boxing) said. "I
was very impressed. His amateur background converted to an
even better pro style. It really showed his potential and
that's one of the primary reasons we signed him. We really
believed in Nico. He is the only fighter we have signed,
right now; Nico is our stable! We see things from a
different angle than big-time promoters. We understood that
he's a hometown hero, so we had him headline at home his pro
debut on national television (CBS Sports Network). We
produce our shows on television and we enjoy telling stories
like Nico's. We'd like to come right back to Wichita with
Nico fighting in June."
Lifelong Kansas Sean Wheelock, a non-paid member of the
Kansas Athletic Commission that oversees boxing, in addition
to calling last Saturday's fights as a member of the KO
Night Boxing announcing team on CBS Sports Network, has a
unique perspective on the significance of last Saturday
evening's in terms of local boxing history.
"It was huge for Kansas boxing," Wheelock explained, "the
biggest show in this state since the Tommy Morrison Era
(early-to-mid 1990's). Morrison was an adopted son, though.
Nico was born here and he has a deep investment in the
Wichita community. Drawing 3000-plus for his pro debut, in a
non-boxing market, was phenomenal and he has the potential
to do what Crawford has done in Omaha and Wilder in
Birmingham. Boxing has strong roots in Kansas and across the
Midwest, but MMA has taken over and lately, most boxing in
Kansas has been on hybrid shows with MMA and kickboxing.
"Fans were loudly chanting, 'Nico' and '316' (Wichita's area
code) before, during and after his fight. I've never heard
fans chanting for a city like they did, 'Wichita', for an
individual athlete. And they were also chanting 'USA'. As a
native Kansas, I'm proud that this state has become more
ethnically and culturally diverse with more Hispanics living
in Wichita. Nico is engaged in the Hispanic community and he
is a fantastic kid, too. Because of his personality and
fighting style, he can draw locally from Wichita, throughout
all of Kansas, and nationally among Hispanics and Americans
across the country because of his accomplishment in the
Hernandez is also fighting in one of the hottest divisions
in boxing -- 115-pound junior bantamweight/super flyweight
-- showcasing name fighters such as Naoya Inoue, Roman
Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras, Juan Francisco Estrada and recent
addition Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Conspicuously absent,
however, are top 20 ranked American fighters in this weight
class, excluding 36-year-old Brian Viloria, the four-time,
two-division (junior flyweight and flyweight) world
champion. The opportunity is right there for Hernandez to
quickly establish himself as the preeminent American boxer
in this weight class.
"There's no reason for Nico to fight outside of Wichita for
a couple of years as he develops," Andersen noted. "I feel
that he can win a regional title next year. Our goal is to
have him in a world title fight position within three years.
Our goal is to get him 13 to 15 fights and then promote a
super fight in Wichita. He started out in a six-round fight.
I think he'll only have a couple more and then move up to
"Nico doesn't waste a lot of punches, so the number of
scheduled rounds won't be a problem for him. Another fighter
would have punched himself out in two rounds, fighting at
home in front of a crowed like he had supporting him, but
Nico showed tremendous poise, settling down and putting his
punches together very well. He didn't chase Gutierrez, he
effectively cut off the ring, and his powerful body attack
was something he didn't do as an amateur. We wanted to see
how he reacted to resistance and he passed that test with
Andersen noted that his company has promoted several
successful shows, noting the big difference is last
weekend's show featured a world-class fighter in Hernandez.
"Making the Olympics was a big deal for Nico," Andersen
added, "whether he medaled or not. Nico is to us what Manny
Pacquiao is to Top Rank, 'Canelo' Alvarez to Golden Boy.
We're lucky to start out with a fighter like Nico. Fighting
in Wichita was risk for everybody but it's already paying
"We know who and what we are as a promotional company. Nico
is our top priority, our only fighter right now, and now we
have a great opportunity to build off last weekend's
success. We give Nico all the attention he deserves and he's
going to take advantage of this situation. And we also
discovered that there's some other talented boxers in this
market. Whit Hayden did a wonderful job making very
competitive fights. That's his history, he never has
blowouts. Whit is one of the most knowledgeable people I
know in boxing. He's the perfect matchmaker to guide Nico's
career, along with Nico's father (head trainer) Lewis
Hernandez, who we work closely with in many ways, in and out
of the ring."