When Aftermath Boxing owner Simon Sanchez III contracted COVID-19 in 2020, his boxing gym was nearly empty for four months. Sanchez, 47, uses his job at a Walmart distribution center in New Braunfels to financially support his gym, but during the time he was quarantined, he couldn't go to work for three months.
"There was a time when I was laying in bed and I was like, 'this is it, I'm going,'", Sanchez said. "But in the back of my mind, I'm thinking 'who's gonna run the gym?'"
There was doubt in Sanchez's mind about the ability to keep the gym open during these trials. His love for boxing and passion for coaching helped him push through trying times. He reflects the same message he tries to show his young boxers: perseverance and positivity.
Sanchez's coaching career shortly followed his professional boxing career. As a pro boxer, Sanchez competed in the Golden Gloves finals three times and was selected for the Olympic trials in 1997. After retiring from boxing in 2002, his coaching career began in 2006 when he tried to revitalize his boxing career at Tough Enough boxing gym in San Marcos.
His intentions of sparring with pros and getting ready for competitions shifted when he saw a group of kids in the gym that needed coaching attention. Sanchez then found success in a new role as a coach, leading that group of kids to the 2007 Junior Olympics, where they took home a team trophy for most wins.
"You get close to them when they win," Sanchez said. "You see all the hard work they go through."
As a coach and a father, one of the most rewarding experiences for Sanchez was watching his son, Simon Sanchez IV, compete in the ring. When Simon was 12 years old, Sanchez remembers the joy of being in the coaching corner for his son's boxing match. This specific match was an event that preceded family troubles for both of them. Sanchez recalls things in that aspect coming to a head before the start of the final round.
"'I miss grandpa,' he kept saying," Sanchez said. "'I'm going to go win this fight for you,' he said. And he won."
Sanchez passed his passion for the sport down to his son, and it was that passion that remained intact when Simon helped fulfill his dad's dream of owning a gym. Together they built a makeshift gym in the front yard of a friend's house in 2016.
With punching bags hanging off of trees and a makeshift ring in the middle of the yard, the setup got the job done. When bad weather forced Sanchez to look for an indoor location, he moved into Aftermath Boxing's current location, 20027 San Marcos Highway #7.
Pandemic-related struggles threatened the gym shortly after opening in September 2019. Keeping with USA Boxing health regulations, the gym was reduced to 50% capacity, which meant there was to be less cash flow to support the gym. On top of that, Sanchez's own fight with COVID-19 meant that for parts of 2020, the gym was shut down completely.
"It was depressing," Sanchez said. "Nobody could be around a person that year. And then we started rolling again... we had a couple of kids start competing again."
Along with Sanchez, Marco Mendoza coaches boxers at the gym. Mendoza met Sanchez in 2016 when Mendoza brought his kids to Sanchez's makeshift gym. From there, Sanchez asked Mendoza if he wanted to assist in coaching duties around the gym.
Although he has no professional background in the sport, Mendoza still invests his time in trying to better the boxers in the gym.
"When they do good, we're doing good, so that's pretty much our reward," Mendoza said. "It's a great environment. We don't discriminate anybody, we welcome everybody."
Michael Coronado has been boxing at Aftermath Boxing for six months. Being a professional boxer for 15 years, Coronado, 30, said that Sanchez's coaching styles and techniques stack up well compared to other gyms he's been a part of.
"He has a lot of different, better tactics than some of the other coaches I've been through," Coronado said. "The other coaches I've had before... they couldn't get me out of a situation that I was in because they've never been inside the ring."
The lessons that can be learned through boxing play a big part in Sanchez's decision to make his gym a non-profit. Sanchez, as a professional boxer, boxed in gyms where monthly fees and equipment were too expensive for some boxers to pay. Although Aftermath Boxing has monthly gym fees, Sanchez keeps them cheap so he can keep his boxers coming.
"I want to make it affordable for everybody," Sanchez said. "I want everybody to keep coming and keep trying."
A goal of Aftermath Boxing as a non-profit is not only to teach boxers how to defend themselves but to advocate for healthier ways to channel frustration while also getting in shape. To Sanchez, the experience that can be gained through boxing translate into everyday life.
"Just keep trying to get better. Stay confident, believe in yourself," Sanchez said. "Come learn to protect yourself a little bit, and just have fun."
Aftermath Boxing is located at 20027 San Marcos Highway #7 and is open Monday-Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The gym is welcome to boxers ages seven and up. For more information on Aftermath Boxing, visit its website https://www.bestprosintown.com/tx/san-marcos/aftermath-boxing-/