Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.
Sanchez amassed an impressive amateur record that included 10 national titles and 5 international titles. The year was 1996 and it was time for Augie to pursue his ultimate dream of becoming an Olympian.
He went to the Olympic qualifiers and fought his way to the finals where he would come face to face with Floyd Mayweather. The fight was fierce and Sanchez was the victor. It looked as if his Olympic dreams had finally arrived. “I was the last American to beat Floyd Mayweather!” Sanchez still says with well deserved pride. “But in 1996, they decided to add a box-off as part of the qualifying process. Mayweather beat me in the box-off.” Mayweather would go to the Olympics. Sanchez would adapt, improvise, and overcome.
That same year, Sanchez debuted as a professional boxer. Even as an amateur, Sanchez had always been told that his style was more professional than amateur. “My style had always been more laid back. I was patient, picking my shots and making them mean something. Everything with purpose; I don’t like to waste punches.” Sanchez said. The transition from amateur to professional was seamless and successful. He would fight his way to a 28 and 3 career total; with the majority of his wins the result of a KO or TKO.
The career of a successful professional boxer is seldom a lengthy, lingering career. In 2001 Sanchez made the difficult decision to retire. It was again time to adapt, improvise and overcome.
Augie Sanchez had spent his whole life in a boxing gym. The next phase of his life would be no different. His trainer and father-in-law owned Barry’s Boxing Gym in Las Vegas and Sanchez found himself back in this gym helping his family out. This is where he discovered that he had his dad’s penchant for coaching, “It’s a good feeling to coach boxers and see them succeed; be a part of that success.”
Sanchez would incorporate the same philosophies as a coach that he had learned from his greatest influencer and mentor, his dad, Juan, Sr. With a chuckle Sanchez recalls one of his dad’s treasured gems of wisdom, “Hit and don’t get hit!” Augie also imparts the other lessons that he garnered from his father; dedication, consistency, and discipline. He tells his boxers, “Boxing in an on-going learning experience. Every boxer can be beat. You have to be open-minded to different strategies. Otherwise, you will get stuck, not advance; you become stagnant. Unfortunately, that happens to a lot of good boxers.”
Sanchez has found that coaching comes with its own challenges. The most common, and perhaps the most frustrating, are the boxers that have seemingly unlimited talent, but lack the discipline to dedicate themselves. “I tell them, that people, whether it’s bad influences, friends, or even family can pull you away from your sport and what is good for your sport. They have to focus. Sometimes it’s like swimming against the current; it’s hard to get them to go with the flow”.
Another challenge that Sanchez has encountered, is the current mindset of a lot of young boxers in regard to their sport. “When I was fighting your main goal, your first goal was to make the Olympic team. Now I feel like only 70% of amateur boxers have that mindset.” He finds that a large amount of young boxers have money and the professional ranks on their mind. “They are lured by scouts who flash money in front of these guys; tell them that the grass is greener over here, when it really isn’t”.
Certain changes within amateur boxing also seem to make the professional career more enticing. Removing the headgear, and placing more emphasis in scoring on aggression and dominance, and even the murmurings of allowing amateur boxers to compete without shirts further the challenge of an athlete maintaining an amateur status. Sanchez laments, “We are heading into an area where there is little difference between amateur boxing and professional boxing. In the amateur boxer’s mind, the only difference is they aren’t making money like the professional boxer.” As a former amateur, and then professional boxer Sanchez says, “Fully developing as an amateur and pursuing the Olympic goal is much more rewarding”.
Even amongst the challenges, Sanchez has found coaching to be supremely gratifying. “Watching a boxer that I’ve coached compete and utilize what I’ve taught them is one of the greatest rewards. Teaching them that they may not always win, but as long as they learn and see the benefits of what I’m coaching and move forward; well that is very rewarding,” stated Sanchez.
Sanchez’s coaching techniques and philosophies gained him attention from USA Boxing, where he was invited to help develop and coach athletes at the national level. His coaching skills led to the realization of one of his greatest dreams. Sanchez was among the team of coaches that travelled to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 to the Olympic Games. “My ultimate goal was to compete in the Olympics, and so, for me, being in Rio was a dream come true. Regardless of being on the other side of the ropes, it was a great feeling of achieving that goal. I was blessed to be part of that team,” claims Sanchez. So, with the most valuable lesson that Sanchez learned from his dad, “Adapt, improvise, and overcome,” Augie Sanchez was able to live his dream while at the same time mentoring and coaching young boxers to realize their dreams and goals; and that is his greatest reward of all.
By Missy Fitzwater
The boxing gym was typical and ordinary; nothing outstanding or special about it. But to a young Augie Sanchez it was everything. It was at first his playground, and later his proving ground. It was where he learned discipline and accountability. But above all else, it was family.
Sanchez would watch his brothers Juan, Jr., and Fernando train with their dad, Juan, Sr., day after day. Until finally he could no longer stand on the outside of the ropes and watch. Sanchez crawled into the ring to join his brothers and copy their movements; the footwork, the punches, the shadow boxing.
“My dad arranged for me to have my first fight when I was 7 years old. An exhibition match with another little guy. We just went at it!”, Augie reminisced. The seven year old had found what would turn into his lifelong passion.
Juan, Sr., continued to coach his three sons throughout their amateur careers. He taught them important lessons through boxing, “Boxing gave us discipline and the ability to stay grounded in life; it also taught us to pursue goals and strive to be the best.” Sanchez stated. It also taught him a lesson that would become a way of life, “Adapt, improvise, overcome.”