Gene Vivero was a legend in Dallas boxing. He owned Vivero Boxing Gym in Oak Cliff. A converted mechanic’s garage, his small gym always smelled of motor oil and sweat. It was suffocating during the summer, bitterly cold during the winter, and had so many boxing trophies that the shelf they were displayed on, curved as if it was close to breaking.
Gene was intimidating. He made you earn his trust. But once you had it, he was a kind man, loved by the countless boxers that trained there.
A lot of the Dallas area boxing talent came from there. Olympians and world champions began fighting inside that small gym held together by duct tape. Quincy Taylor—Dallas’ only boxing champion between Curtis Cokes and Errol Spence—trained there. Spence trained there and Vergil Ortiz Jr. did too.
Every time I visited his gym, Gene would point to one or two young boxers. “That’s my next world champion,” he’d tell me. And he wasn’t just saying that, he meant it. He wasn’t the type to say things just to say them. In fact, he made sure to tell his students that boxing wasn’t a way out.
Gene was one of the last people that I interacted with, that wasn’t part of my family. Last March, we spoke for about an hour at his gym. That day, two guys showed up to learn how to box. They must have been around 16 years old. They came up to me, thinking I owned the gym. They told me they wanted to box. But before I could tell them they were talking to the wrong guy, Gene said, “why you asking him? He don’t own shit.” Gene and I laughed while the young want-to-be boxers forced a smile that couldn’t hide how scared they were. Not sure if they looked that way because of Gene or because everyone is scared the first time they walk into a boxing gym. Probably both.
He then told them to run around the neighborhood. It was a path all the boxers there knew. When they returned, Gene told them that every time they came to the gym, they had to shake every one’s hand. That was his rule. Gene then began by teaching them the basics. He got inside the ring with them and showed them how to use their feet.
Gene Vivero, 71, will be missed.