Giddings, Texas – He was an aspiring young boxer whose career was cut short after a devastating car accident. But now Mexican-American Lio Vega, 52, a once up-and-coming lightweight, is vying to continue his fight on the ring – as a boxing coach.
His love of boxing started early, as a child growing up in Corpus Christi, Tex.
“It was either boxing or soccer back then,” Vega recalls, “there was a huge migration from Mexico at the time and you could always find someone to fight.”
From the age of 8, he lived in the boxing ring, going from one fight to the next, moving up the ranks of amateur boxing. At 15, passionate young Vega wanted to go professional and get in the ring with the big guns.
He had support from his family. Vega, a devout Catholic, leaned on his faith as the cornerstone of his life. Vega depended on God for his strength, something he had become very good at, as he was constantly tested in his life.
The first blow came when Vega’s older brother left for the Vietnam War. He really looked up to his brother and since his father had fallen ill to diabetes, the entire family had become dependant on Vega’s brother as the patriarch of the family.
Vega’s desire to be in the ring was unstoppable and so was he, all the time he spent training was paying off. But instead of stepping up to the professional ranks of fighting, he instead found himself fighting for his life.
Vega had taken and given many punches but was no match for the windshield of the car he was in; it slammed into a welding truck. He was extricated from the vehicle and his head split open, with neck injuries that would never leave him the same.
Vega recalls his experience shortly after the incident, “I would go into the ring and I couldn’t recover from a hit, my head was constantly foggy.”
Vega looks downs and says his heart was broken again when his father passed. He tells of how he kept taking life’s punches.
“Now, there’s this,” Vega smiles gratefully, looking up the sign of the gym he now owns, La Esquina Boxing Gym in Giddings, Texas. “I’ve known all my life, I was suppose to box, and I’m 52 now.”
He had moved to Giddings years ago thinking his boxing possibilities were over, but only in the last few years realized there were others who loved boxing in the same small town. When people found out about Vega, they would ask him about his boxing experience.
He found more and more people who wanted to learn how to box. Vega’s passion for fighting quickly returned.
He never thought he would be coaching. In fact, one of his first students repeatedly asked Vega to train him, and Vega got tired of hearing him ask, and finally caved in. He now spends a tremendous amount of time with teenagers, keeping them focused and fighting for “God, family, and country.”
The gym itself is a constant work in progress, and the number of youth learning to fight keeps growing. A few of his fighters are getting serious recognition and that has been fueling the excitement of what’s happening in Vega’s life, and at La Esquina Gym.
GiGi Erneta is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino.