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  Genaro Hernandez: Tribute to a Champ - “Chicanito’s” Service THIS MONDAY, June 13

By Michele Chong

Photos: Raymond Rodriguez


On June 7 Champion Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez lost his brave battle against cancer at the age of 45.

Passing away at his home in Mission Viejo, the boxer is survived by his wife, Liliana, children Amanda and Steven, father Joe Rudy, brother and his former trainer, Rudy Hernandez, along with sisters and brothers Carmen, Joe, Maria, and Victor, cousins, nieces, nephews and more in the Hernandez family.

The popular fighter from Southern California was first diagnosed with the deadly disease in 2008. For almost three years I have watched the former world titlist fight back against this vicious form of cancer that kept returning even after “Chicanito’s” two all-too brief remissions. His will to survive was remarkable, the war he raged against his disease was beyond admirable in fighting the good fight.

Throughout his struggle, countless individuals have been in his corner, including those in boxing circles like José Sulaimán, Mauricio Sulaimán, the World Boxing Council (WBC), WBCares’ Jill Diamond, Top Rank, Bob Arum, CompuBox, Teiken, Ken Thompson, Thompson Boxing Promotions, Roy Englebrecht Promotions, the Maywood Boxing Gym, and so many more. And since his passing, I have heard so many amazing anecdotes, heartfelt comments and decades-old remembrances about the former WBC and WBA Super Featherweight Champion. Recollections so great and from so many that I was happy to share with the Hernandez family before Genaro’s untimely passing.

And Genaro’s family really was the cornerstone in his all too short life. La Familia was his rock. And since Genaro’s death, I have respected how Team Hernandez has kept their unshakable faith, deep spirituality and strength while facing this tragedy head on.

His brother Rudy, along with the whole family, has been a force in being there for their champ.

And yesterday, it was Rudy who was the one who had to tell us, “My brother Genaro is no longer with us. He’s moved on to his next destination at 3:04 p.m. today.”

And it was his hermano and trainer Rudy that was in Chicanito’s corner for the very last bout in his pro career. Facing a young upstart in 21-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr., the brothers shared that final moment in the ring back in 1998. Genaro had just two losses during his championship career with defeats by Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya.

Outside of the ropes, he was defeated by a truly evil foe that most can never beat–rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

This cannot be easy for Rudy and the family to have to now have to lay their brother to rest. But just like their beloved champion, the whole Hernandez clan has faced the tragedy with dignity and grace.

“My little brother has departed to his next journey,” announced a heartbroken Rudy. “I wish him well and until we meet again.”

In confirming the details of Monday’s service, I wanted to double check with Rudy that the funeral service is open to the public and not just for immediate members of the family.

Everyone can attend–IT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

“I want the world to know!” Rudy, a former boxer himself, current trainer and cutman, told me. “One last hurrah.” Anyone who has ever met Genaro or Rudy knows of their special bond, and also of that sense of humor the pair shared between them, with no joke spared between the two. Now Chicanito will be given one final hurrah by his sibling and their family, who is immersed in boxing.

One last hurrah for a champion who made an impact on many.

In the sport of boxing, it’s no secret that backbiting, trash talking and double dealing are all just part of the game. We’re all used to it, this dark side of boxing; the so-called politics of the sweet science. Amidst the more negative aspects of the fight game, Genaro stood out. Head and shoulders above the rest he managed to always maintain such dignity and class, heart and humor, strength combined with vulnerability. A true “People’s Champ,” who was often described as classy and a pure gentleman. Think about it, folks. How often do you hear of anyone in boxing being described as “classy” or “gentlemanly”?

I already knew of the many good deeds he did for others, whether it be with time, money or support. And it wasn’t like he was rolling in dough. In his heyday, champion’s purses weren’t in the multi-millions like it is now. Genaro also had well-documented financial troubles, an early lack of medical insurance, and he almost lost his home in a landslide that threatened their neighborhood.

Now after his passing, I am hearing even more stories of his open-hearted generosity and thoughtfulness in assisting others. It doesn’t surprise me, Genaro was just a good soul whom everyone agreed was one of the “good guys” in our sport.

And “Chicanito” will leave a legacy; he’s already left a lasting impression on all of us.

Saying goodbye to him during a visit this past Sunday was a difficult thing for me to do, personally. But I was honored to be able to have that chance. The champ was surrounded by his family–and he was surrounded, protected and bathed in the pure love that everyone gave him in that room. It was very powerful; I will never forget it. Besides all of his relatives, an endless stream of friends, gym mates, fellow fighters and champions, including “Sugar” Shane Mosley also came out to see the champion during what would sadly be his final couple of days on Earth.

After his initial cancer diagnosis (with early–and frightening–tests indicating he could lose an eye to the fourth-stage cancer), I know he fought for each and every day in his survival. And toward the end, he fought for every hour, for every minute until finally, every precious second. He never gave up. Why? You know the answer. Because he was a fighter, and beyond that he was a champion.

To become a world champion is no easy feat. To stay a champion is even harder. You will never hear a bad word about Genaro Hernandez. He was made of what a champ should be: Courage, Strength, Heart.

His cousin Yolanda Cervantes said it best. “He was a fighter both INSIDE and OUTSIDE of the ring,” his prima spoke of the fallen hero.

While his final “Ten Count” will take place on Monday, he will remain in the hearts of his family, friends and fans. He was a beloved relative and friend to so many and a favorite with boxing fans around the world.


Rest in peace, Champ.

SERVICES for Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez

DATE: Monday, June 13
TIME: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
PLACE: Resurrection Church
ADDRESS: 3324 Opal Street, Los Angeles, CA 90023
(Cross streets are 8th and Lorena)
Church: (323) 268-1141


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