Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez fought many battles in the ring and now he is facing the biggest fight of his life. The former two-time Junior Lightweight World Champion has been diagnosed with fourth-stage cancer of the head and neck. He needs everyone’s help and support during this extremely difficult time.
After speaking with the champ, it will surprise no one that his positive attitude, sense of humor and optimism are all still intact since first learning in October that he had this aggressive and rare form of cancer. Hernandez (38-2-1, 17 KOs), was a fan favorite in his hometown of Los Angeles and is well-liked in boxing circles. Even during his own health crisis, he’s still thinking of others, “I hope this helps others to get checked early like I did. I don’t drink; I don’t smoke; I live a clean life and stayed out of trouble–you just can’t take anything for granted.”
Unfortunately, the disease runs in his family and he tells me during our conversation that both his father and mother had cancer. Genaro, 42, says with disbelief, “I had no symptoms, just a little lump near the jaw area that I thought was fatty tissue. So I went to the doctor to have it removed back in September. Then after about a week, I noticed two other lumps near my collarbone, so I had a CAT scan. At first they didn’t think it was cancer–the tests came back negative. But after a biopsy, they found tumors growing in my sinus and my lymph node. I have a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma that is usually only found in kids.”
The former World Boxing Council (WBC) champion continues, “I thought I was just in the early stage, since I have no pain…well, I can take pain,” the former boxer laughs. And what about a fight of this magnitude against cancer? “I’ve been through fights, so I will get through this like a pro fighter–with hard work, dedication, and support.”
As for support, Rudy Tellez, WBC Supervisor is planning a fundraising benefit, including a dinner, autograph signing and silent auction for Hernandez on January 17, 2009, “This dinner will be a big function. We’ll have a lot of diplomats coming down and we want everyone to participate. ‘Chicanito’ will be surprised to see how many people love him.” Hernandez was inducted into the WBC Hall of Fame in June of this year.
“The Mouthpiece Doctor” Tellez is also Chairman of the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum (where the event will be held), located at the American Sports University in San Bernardino, Calif. He’s counting on the boxing community to help out one of their own, “I really want boxing fans, managers, trainers, and fighters to come out and do what we have to do for him. The WBC has been 100% supportive and maybe we can change something for ‘Chicanito’.” Hernandez will need ongoing medical treatments that may not be completely covered by his insurance, so donations are more than welcome at this time.
While at the WBC 46th World Convention in Chengdu, China, Tellez first heard the shocking news through WBC President Jose Sulaiman, “We all choked up when we got the news. Sulaiman protects these boys like his own sons; we all do the same thing and we want to help. And Jill Diamond is the ‘mother nature’ of the WBC–this lady is awesome and a wonderful woman who’s been helping ‘Chicanito’.”
Diamond, Chairman for World Boxing Cares (a charitable children’s organization founded by the WBC), told me how she first met Hernandez and of later witnessing his generosity first hand, “I met Genaro at the “Celebration of Champions” in Cancun in 2005. He was one of the many champions who joined us for that incredible event. But I didn’t really know Genaro until he accompanied me on our first World Boxing Cares visit to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. After spending time with the children, he went back, got the dates of their birthdays and sent them gifts!”
Diamond, who’s also a WBC Championship Committee Co Chairman, speaks of the organization’s loyalty for the champ, “This is a small slice of life. The WBC’s relationship with Genaro is much longer. He has proved himself over and over to be a kind and devoted friend to all. That’s why they want to support him. He is a beloved athlete and an admired man. He is a light and an inspiration– a champion, as we were raised to believe how champions should be.”
Others are also quickly stepping in and lending support as word spreads about Genaro’s prognosis. Ken Thompson and Alex Camponovo of Thompson Boxing Promotions will be dedicating their January 30th fight night at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. to the champ.
The devastating diagnosis has no doubt shocked Hernandez, his wife, his daughter, 16, and his son, age 9, and again, always thinking of others, Genaro says is saddened the most for the stress it’s caused his family, who reside in Mission Viejo, Calif. He will begin chemotherapy and radiation therapy on December 2nd and keep your fingers crossed–no surgery for now. “Doctors say eventually they may have to remove my right eye,” Genaro tells me. “The tumor is eroding the bone of my eye socket.” But do not underestimate a true champion’s spirit as Genaro, who scored victories over Jorge Paez, Azumah Nelson, and Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, among others during his career, explains, “There’s a Spanish saying that translates to ‘A bad weed never dies’: Hierba mala nunca muere.” He adds with determination, “And I’m not gonna let this beat me.”
The humble World Champ and former HBO alum is definitely not letting his current condition slow him down one bit. On Saturday night, he accepted a World Boxing Hall of Fame Induction Award for Akihiko Honda, the Japanese boxing promoter who was instrumental in Genaro’s career. And on Sunday, he went to an amateur boxing show at Eddie Heredia’s Boxing Club to support his brother’s fighters. Again, Genaro continues to amaze everyone with his kindness, support, and loyalty to others, traits that are sometimes a rarity–in or out of the ring.
Genaro’s gentlemanly acts of kindness–both small and large–have reached out to many people through the years, impacting them in various ways that he himself probably doesn’t even realize. Our own MyBoxingFans.com publisher Edgar Gonzalez has been just one individual touched by “Chicanito’s” kind and generous nature. The champ was friends with Gonzalez’ dad, Raul, and gave the father and son complimentary tickets to his fight against Pedro Arroyo in 1991. This bout at the Forum in Los Angeles was the very first live fight Edgar saw in person, thus instilling such a love of the sport that eventually led him to create this boxing website.
So with the support of Dr. Sulaiman, the WBC, Tellez, Diamond, Thompson Boxing Promotions, and many others in the boxing world, Genaro has countless people in his corner, including all of us at MyBoxingFans.com. He will continue to need everyone’s support during his toughest fight yet.
Please keep “Chicanito” in your prayers and continue to check this site for updates.
If you’d like more information regarding the January 17, 2009 benefit, please e-mail Rudy Tellez at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Raymond Rodriguez
Photo of Edgar Gonzalez and Genaro Hernandez courtesy of Edgar Gonzalez
Photos of Genaro with Erik Morales courtesy of Jill Diamond and www.worldboxingcares.com
Please mark them “Genaro” and make payable to World Boxing Cares
All money is tax deductable and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the Genaro Hernandez family.
World Boxing Cares
36 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Tax ID number: 26 2665978
(A beautfiul WBC Lifetime Certificate will be sent to you to acknowledge your donation)