For the second time in less than a month, the Mendez Boxing Gym lost a family member to the coronavirus disease.
Francisco Mendez, founder and owner of the famed New York City training facility died Tuesday morning due to complications from COVID-19. He was 61 years old at the time of his unfortunate passing.
“We are devastated to announce the sudden passing of Francisco Mendez,” read a statement through the Mendez Boxing Gym social media account. “He was hospitalized in stable condition but had [an] unexpected complication which lead to his passing.
“We know he meant a lot to many, many of you and sorry this is the way you had to find out as family members at the moment can't notify each person individually but was important for everyone to know because of the family we all are. We hope you [understand], keep his family in your prayers and keep on fighting on because that is what he would have wanted everyone to do.”
Mendez was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico, where he gave boxing a try before moving to the United States in 1980. Years spent working any job in order to provide for his family eventually led to his realizing what he referred to as his “American Dream”, when he first began training boxers and willing clients in the 1990s.
After serving as a trainer at locations such as the historic Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, Mendez founded and opened Mendez Boxing Gym in 2004. The first gym was located on 32nd Street between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue before expanding and moving to a bigger facility two years later. As his client list continued to grow, there came the demand to build an even bigger gym which led to its present day location on East 26th Street in the Madison Square section of New York City.
“I couldn’t make it as a boxer but it was God’s will that I made it as a trainer and entrepreneur,” Mendez said last October during a profile segment on City University of New York (CUNY) TV’s Emmy-award winning Nueva York series profiling Latino culture. “I love New York and I’m staying here until God… as long as God wants me to.”
In addition to his everyday clientele list, Mendez’s gym hosted countless fight week media workout sessions for big events at Madison Square Garden. As is the case with every other non-essential business around the world, Mendez Boxing Gym was forced to temporarily close in the wake of the ongoing global health crisis.
A recent online fundraiser was created through GoFundMe on March 16 soliciting donations to offset lost income during the gym’s closure. A goal of $10,000 was set; to date, $14,370 has been raised, including $1,370 in the hours since Mendez’s passing.
Mendez suffered a major health scare in 2015 when he was diagnosed with cancer. He recalled the horrific ordeal during his CUNY-TV profile.
“I always keep in mind that I’m a warrior, a fighter and I won’t let anything take me down,” Mendez noted. “We overcame everything, thank God. I’m super happy now, super happy. I go outside and see God’s light and I thank him every day.
“Every new day God gives me, because I don’t know if I’ll be alive tomorrow. I take it day by day. I love everybody. Trust me, when you go through something like this, it changes your life.”
Mendez is survived by his wife and their son, Frankie and daughter, Luz. His passing comes less than four weeks after veteran cutman and trainer Nelson Cuevas—who also worked out of Mendez Boxing Gym in his later years—died at the age of 80 due to complications from COVID-19.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox