By Stephanie Kent
The boxing world mourns the loss of Francisco Mendez today, a longtime fixture of New York boxing. Mendez owned and managed the well-loved Mendez Boxing Gym in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
The gym — distinct among New York’s boxing scene for its residency of professional fighters, amateur boxers and fitness enthusiasts alike — is a family-run operation, known for its warmth and a welcoming, tight-knit community of boxing fans. Francisco had a long career of cornering champions, including New York Daily News Golden Gloves winner Julie Kelly. “There is never a way to repay a trainer who devotes their time and knowledge to you other than getting in that ring and executing what you have both worked so hard on,” Kelly said. “Francisco was special. He knew just what you needed to hear, when you needed to hear it, to box with everything you had. As a fighter, as his fighter, you wanted nothing more than to do that. For him. It was an honor to ever step in the ring and represent Mendez Boxing and have Francisco in your corner.”
Mendez’ former fighter Alician Napoleon shares similar sentiments. “I won my first Golden Gloves with him in my corner. He taught me so much in and out of the ring. He taught me to be grateful for the little things, give the glory to God and then when you find peace and satisfaction in your current position of life, that is when you will receive an abundance from the Lord. He was a giving man with so much love in his heart for others and God. His faith and love for boxing has always inspired me to do the same in my own path. He’s watered my faith and my strength as a champion. He will be forever missed, always remembered and cherished in my heart.”
A lifelong entrepreneur, Francisco opened and ran several gym locations throughout his career and generously supported small business and creativity. Mendez BC often doubled as a site for film shoots, fundraisers and startups within the gym’s community.
In recent years, Mendez focused his talents on running the gym, where he was often the first one in before it opened at 5am. One of his trainers, Ivan Rosas-Almeida insisted he liked it that way. “He always told me ‘I do not get tired of working because when you love what you do it is not a job, it is a pleasure.’”
In this sport, we wonder often about legacy. We confront pain and injury and grief, and don’t fear them as long as we have something great to leave behind. Francisco Mendez’ legacy is a full one: a beautiful family, a vibrant business, students mentored, friendships built, some totally-worth-it hangovers each year on May 6th, a stable of champions with belts and Golden Glove necklaces, and a place that will always feel like home to many.
The Mendez Boxing Gym family sends all our love and condolences to Frankie, Luz and Teresa.