Hernandez focused on pro career, future at Wichita State


Brian Hayes

Nico Hernandez cut the angle against Pat Gutierrez during the second round at Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane. (Mar. 25, 2017)

When Nico Hernandez returned home to Wichita from Rio de Janeiro with his Olympic bronze medal, the American boxer was showered with gifts at his welcome home celebration at North High School.

Of all the gifts, one meant more to Nico and his family than the Olympic bronze medal or the key to the city: a full four-year scholarship to Wichita State.

“To me, that was the biggest accomplishment right there,” said Lewis Hernandez, Nico’s coach and father. “Not only winning the bronze medal, but getting that scholarship of four-year, full ride. People dream of that. It was a dream come true for him.”

Assistant to the President for Diversity Marche Fleming-Randle offered the 115-pound fighter a scholarship good for four years at WSU — an offer that has no expiration. Lewis said his family felt honored that Nico received something many students his son’s age try to earn.

While the offer was intriguing, Nico and his family were set on the 21-year-old starting his professional career as soon as possible.

“What we’re trying to do right now is trying to get situated and get his career started, and then we will go from there on how we have to get situated with (the scholarship),” Lewis said.

Hernandez walked out in front of more than 3,100 fans at Kansas Star Casino for his opening debut on Saturday, hearing the chants of his name and the area code “316” filling the air. As he stepped foot into the ring, he let his opponent, Patrick Gutierrez of Las Vegas, know that he was the real deal.

For three full rounds, Nico punished Gutierrez with a combination of powerful swings, continuing to lunge at him until the three-minute bell sounded.

With a little more than two minutes left in the fourth round, Hernandez earned his first victory as a professional by technical knockout.

“It’s just how I pictured it,” Nico said. “Coming out of the tunnel, everybody chanting for me and cheering me on, it’s just like I imagined it. I want to hopefully bring more shows (to Kansas Star Casino).”

Nico’s mother, Chello Hernandez, frequently questioned her son on if he would accept the scholarship offer. Each time, Nico would tell his mother that he would gladly try college once his career in boxing was complete.

Academics have not always been something Nico has welcomed. His mother continues to encourage Nico, sometimes bringing in other family and friends to help try and push Nico into the academic path.

“We just struggle a little bit when it comes to stuff like taking school,” Chello said. “A lot of people have explained to him that it’s not like high school. If he did (go to WSU), that’s just another accomplishment.”

Should he accept the invitation, Nico would be the first person in his family to graduate from college.

“(Graduating) would be a whole another thing for me to be just extremely happy,” Chello said. “If he accomplished that, it might help me out and might not make me so scared of school anymore.”

Whenever Nico decides to lay the gloves down for good, he said he will be on campus as a full-time student. While he is undecided on what field of study he wants to pursue, Nico is optimistic about the opportunities he has in and out of the boxing ring.   

“Once I get my career started and once I get it flowing, I’m going to take that scholarship up with WSU,” Hernandez said. “I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I’ll work it out. I’ll see what happens.”