Frankie Sanchez Jr. has a dad who would take a punch for him. In fact, he has taken many.
The former Grandview High School wrestling star is off to a successful start to a professional boxing career at just 18 years old, and the sky seems to be the limit.
But Sanchez Jr.’s is not just any attempt at diving into the boxing world — which has swallowed up the hopes and dreams of many — it is a thoughtfully-laid plan with plenty of experience behind it.
The hard lessons Frankie Sanchez Sr. learned before he hung up his own gloves nearly two decades ago and the connections he made over his years in the ring have made it possible for him to steer his son on a different, better path.
“Because he is so young, we’re taking it slow and trying to guide him down the right path,” Sanchez Sr. said. “We think he’s going to make it, and he has all the tools, we just don’t want to rush it. …We have the blueprint, now we just have to follow it and hope everything goes well.”
That’s easier said than done in a sport like boxing — which is of course very dangerous by its nature — but so far, the blueprint has been right on point for Sanchez Jr.
Since essentially bypassing the amateur ranks and going right into professional fighting — where he can actually make money right away instead of taking potential poundings without earning a living — Sanchez Jr. has won all five of his fights.
He’s fought at The Stampede in Aurora, trekked to Wyoming for two bouts and most recently fought on a card at the University of Denver’s Magness Arena. Las Vegas promoters already have Sanchez Jr. on the radar, thanks his dad and he may head across the pond to fight in England in the near future after an earlier trip there.
It’s been a fast rise, but he’s followed his dad’s recommendations, ended his fights quickly without taking much punishment — four by knockout or technical knockout — and is certainly making the most of his time.
“I’ve only got so many more years, so might as well make the most of it while I’m young,” he said. “All I love to do is fight and train, so I base my life around that right now and I’m slowly, but surely, trying to make it up the ranks.”
It’s all building towards a potential future in mixed martial arts, which combines Sanchez Jr.’s favorite disciplines of boxing and wrestling in one.
Frankie Sanchez Sr. believes his son is the best boxer in the family already, and that’s not because he’s the only one to step in the ring.
He’s a third-generation fighter, as his great grandfather, Phil, was a Southern Pacific champion in the Army in 1945 and got double-digit professional fights under belt (winning six fights, losing three with four draws), while Frankie Sr. logged more than 60 fights, including 30-plus as a pro.
Frankie Sr. was just a slightly better than .500 boxer in his career (16-15), so he can see that his son is currently on a different trajectory that could take him to another level.
“My grandfather taught me and I’m teaching him all the skills that he taught me, so as of now, Frankie Jr.’s the best,” Frankie Sr. said. “I lost my amateur debut and my pro debut, while he’s undefeated, so he’s already way better than I was. He’s been brought up with boxing, and I think he gets some inspiration from me and his grandfather.”
Frankie Sr. — a graduate of Aurora’s Gateway High School who wrestled collegiately at Adams State — won multiple Golden Gloves boxing championships in Colorado and trained for a chance to compete in the Olympics, but found budding stars like Oscar De La Hoya barring the way.
He learned about the politics and sometimes seamy underbelly of the sport of boxing — which outside observers often speculate about — he learned about proper nutrition, the right way to build up to fights, which all help him guide Frankie Jr. past some potential pitfalls that other fighters might fall into.
Even seemingly small things like what to do in the locker room ahead of a fight — where long waits are common with large cards — can add up.
“We joke around that the anticipation of the fight is worse than the fight itself,” Frankie Sr. said. “A lot of fights are lost in the locker room. If they don’t have an experienced coach, they walk around the whole time or jump around and tire themselves out before they even get in the ring.
“Once they do that, they get in the ring, and they are like deer in the headlights and don’t have anything left in the tank.”
Frankie Jr. has learned that so far, whatever his dad has recommended has worked, including how he tapers down in anticipation of a fight.
He just wants to get it going.
“Fight weeks are the longest weeks of my life, just sitting there waiting to get into the ring and everybody’s talking to you about it,” Frankie Jr. said. “Once I get in the ring, everything’s fine, I just get bored with the waiting around, but I put a lot of faith in my dad and his coaching.”
Outside of the ring, Frankie Jr. has another advantage in the unmistakable presence of Team Sanchez, which is comprised of a large segment of family — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — plus a variety of business sponsors that believe in him enough to fund his training.
Whether in the overly-stimulating atmosphere at The Stampede — where he is scheduled to fight again at the end of March — or in a larger venue such as the one he fought in at DU on Jan. 29, the presence of Team Sanchez can’t be missed.
Their presence and backing helps keep Frankie Jr. grounded no matter what is going on surrounding his fight.
“The Sanchez family is very tight and we keep in contact all the time,” he said. “They are always there for me. It’s great to see them show up and give me all the love and support they do.”
WRESTLING AS A GATEWAY
Frankie Jr. is certain he wouldn’t be where he is today in the boxing world without the foundation he built in wresting, which he started at three or four years old.
He also had a role model on the mat in Frankie Sr., who had an outstanding prep career at Gateway that included wrestling for a state championship back in 1991. He lost a 5-1 decision to Horizon’s Rory Roman with the 125-pound title on the line in the now-defunct Class 6A.
Frankie Jr. stuck with the demanding sport and also earned a chance to be a state champion, but lost a 4-2 decision to Cherokee Trail’s Derek Glenn Jr. in the 106-pound final at Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) in the 2020 5A state tournament.
In all, he was a three-time state qualifier and two-time placer for coach Ryan Budd’s Grandview program.
Budd has seen many tough kids come through his room since he took over as head coach nearly a decade ago, but in his eyes, few could match Frankie Jr. pound for pound.
Budd admits his knowledge of boxing is rudimentary, but he had an inkling that Frankie Jr. was built to succeed in it. So he took his wife and daughter to one of Sanchez Jr.’s first amateur fights, which was held at A-1 Boxing in the Town Center of Aurora.
Frankie Jr. got knocked down twice in the early going of that match, but just like on the wrestling mat, he roared back and dominated the rest of the fight to win.
“I was nervous because you never want to see a kid that you’ve been coaching for a long time get hurt,” Budd said. “He got knocked down twice in the first two rounds, but he came back out and basically broke the kid. For him to get hit pretty hard twice and to come out of that and win the rest of the fight, that’s the kind of kid he is. You hit him, and now it’s on. He wants to keep going, and he wants to win.”
His toughness and his success on the mat helped Frankie Jr. receive Grandview’s Male Athlete of the Year award for his senior year in 2021.
At the school’s senior awards, Budd gave a speech detailing Frankie Jr.’s accomplishments and lauded his eagerness to take on any challenge head on.
“Frankie is definitely up there with the toughest kids I’ve ever had,” Budd said. “If there is any adversity going on, he really embraces that, which is hard to find. Oftentimes, people who are new to combat sports, people start to break when the adversity comes, but he doesn’t shy away from anything.
“I really feel like if they continue to do what they are doing, he has the mentality to do this. You can’t just take a kid off the street, it takes a lot of discipline and he has it.”
At just about any level, wrestling is a sport that weeds out those that aren’t mentally tough. Frankie Jr. believes that the things he learned in it give him an inherent advantage over most fighters he faces.
“It just helps build that killer mentality,” Frankie Jr. said. “A lot of these kids are pretty touch and go, not fiery and like to get in there and brawl and do the dirty work. Wrestling taught me a lot of discipline, hard work and mental strength. I just like to get in there and scrap. It’s definitely about putting the pressure on them and breaking these people, making them tire out.”
Physically, wrestling has also helped Frankie Jr. during inevitable tie-ups, where he can work his opponents’ arms around and set himself up to launch an attack after the referee separates them and calls for fighting to resume. He also has a shorter reach than many of his opponents, so has to get in tight and wrestling made him comfortable in close quarters.
Not surprisingly, Frankie Jr.’s last opponent — Jerryd Hernandez — had a wrestling background and provided his toughest challenge yet. Frankie Jr. left Hernandez’s face bloodied after four rounds, but had his first fight go to the scorecards of the judges.
He won by unanimous decision against an opponent who outweighed him, but it was by far his toughest test.
“I hit him with everything I had and more,” Frankie Jr. said. “There was a time when I had like eight punches in a row and had him on the ropes, and he wasn’t firing back and it was like ‘wow, he can really just take the punches. …Some people just don’t go down. He was a wrestler, too, and had that mentality of stay up and keep it going.”
‘SOMETHING TO REMEMBER’
Frankie Sr. also knows that boxing is much more than just the sport and that those that promote themselves are the ones that succeed and draw a following.
Social media is something that he is embracing for his son, as he has designed different costumes and entrances for his fights to play to the crowd and those who follow on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms.
Frankie Jr. has dressed as a Kung Fu fighter, a character from the movie Vision Quest and most recently donned a skeleton mask and hat as the Grim Reaper prior to his fight with Hernandez. The duo has more prepared for future fights.
“I’m a showman, so I just want to make sure everybody has a good time, whether I lose or win. It’s about giving people something to remember when they come to see a fight.”
With his son’s stay in boxing likely not to be a lengthy one before he moves to MMA, Frankie Sr. knows the value of building a following in addition to a sparkling record.
Those things mean the potential for bigger fights and larger purses, which would help Frankie Jr. move along from the sport before it starts to take too much of a physical toll on him.
“We’re just trying to find our niche,” Frankie Sr. said. “It’s a sport, but it’s also entertainment. People want to see something fun when they pay for a ticket. We’re just trying to give our fans a show.”
Budd was used to see Frankie Jr. do his business on the wrestling mat without much fanfare, so he knows that anything he puts out during fights comes from belief in himself.
“With Frankie, there is no false hype,” Budd said. “He wouldn’t do it if he didn’t believe he could back it up.”
For now, Frankie Jr. is enjoying the ride and entertaining hopes for the future that include a run at world championships in boxing and mixed martial arts, but he knows nothing is certain in a sport where injuries are inevitable and often times extreme.
Building his bank account up enough to buy a house somebody or finance a college education is first and foremost in the goals before he hangs them up.
“Injuries happen, other things happen, but my main goal is just not to take any damage or have any side effects in the future. I’m just taking care of my body as well as I can, trying to stay health and try to get in and get out of my fights. We’ll see where it goes from here.'”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports