Gene Vivero with undefeated pro boxer Vergil Ortiz Jr., who trained as an amateur at Vivero Boxing Gym. Photo courtesy of Vergil Ortiz.

Legendary boxing coach Gene Vivero, who was from North Dallas and operated a gym in Oak Cliff for 26 years, died last week at age 71.

Gene Vivero’s business card.

Vivero lived a dynamic life, working full-time as a line-crew foreman for TXU, while raising four kids with his wife, Janie, and running a North Dallas restaurant with his mother and other family members.

He was called to open a boxing gym to help neighborhood kids. Vivero grew up in North Dallas, lived on Walnut Hill Lane and attended St. Monica Catholic Church for many years. His work brought him to Oak Cliff frequently, and that’s how he found the the former auto mechanic’s garage that he bought and turned into a boxing gym.

His family was among the first to give him a memorial service at the new Hughes Family Tribute Center.

The funeral home on Webb Chapel Road created a mini-museum to Vivero’s life, which was up for two days, full of photos, video projections, newspaper and magazine clippings, and mementos from his life in boxing.

In the chapel, there were more personal mementos, of his days as captain of the North Dallas High School football team, his family life and his love of gardening — Vivero grew and harvested banana, fig, lemon, plum and olive trees.

When Hector Beltran of Oak Cliff trained at the gym before going pro, Vivero would throw open the garage doors for sparring matches, and the neighborhood would come out in summertime party mode to watch and cheer.

Here is what The Advocate wrote about Gene Vivero in 2016.

He is now retired, but for years he operated the gym six days a week after his job running a line crew for TXU.

The gym has never made him any money, he says. The fees he receives often are just enough (and sometimes not quite enough) to keep the electricity on and pay property taxes.

When the Beltran brothers were kids, Vivero paid for their gloves and protective gear. It’s not unusual for Vivero or his brother, Dennis, to give athletes rides and help them buy equipment.

“I’m forever indebted to them and grateful,” [retired pro boxer Hector] Beltran says.

About two years ago, the gym received official nonprofit status.

The Beltran brothers both found the discipline to finish high school, go to college and find jobs in the professional world. For fun, they now train young boxers at Vivero.

Vivero was a boxer himself, a Golden Gloves heavyweight, and he trained his youngest kid and only son, Christopher, who won the under-19 National Championship.

Several successful boxers have come out of Vivero’s gym, including Vergil Ortiz Jr., who was a seven-time national champion and won the 2013 Junior Olympics. He is now 16-0 as a professional.

But most of the boxers who trained at Vivero weren’t champs. They were just neighborhood kids who needed something to do.

“Gene believed that boxing taught discipline and other important life lessons,” his obituary reads. “He knew that having the gym helped keep kids off the street and offered a positive outlet for adolescent energy. He wanted to help young people grow and mature by learning how to work hard and handle themselves in the ring.”

Gene Vivero and wife, Janie.


WANT MORE?
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.