Beloved Houston boxing coach dies after valiant month-long battle with COVID-19

Beloved Houston boxing gym owner dies after battle with COVID-19

HOUSTON – If a kid had any interest in learning the ins and outs of the boxing ring, Hector Rocha was there to teach. Rocha did so for over four decades on the north side, armed with a bare-knuckled drive to coach hundreds of area youth. 

“Dad always had open arms for anyone that was willing to learn,” said Hector Rocha, Jr., Rocha’s son. 

Hector Rocha passed away on Aug. 15, following a one-and-a-half month fight against COVID-19. 

He was 83. He owned Rocha’s Boxing Gym, located on the 200 block of Luther Street on Houston’s northside, where heavy hitters past and present learned how to roll with the punches.

“Boxing always has been in the blood,” Hector Rocha, Jr. said. 

It’s what Rocha learned in Monterrey Mexico, before moving to Houston in the 1970s to fight and help his brothers do the same. 

“I believe he started with my uncle, Tony Rocha. He was a primetime fighter at that time,” Rocha said, adding his dad then focused on coaching. That meant scouting, coaching, and mentoring young men in the Bayou City, especially young men on the northside who needed direction. 

Hector Rocha, Jr. said his father was healthy and in good shape. He suspected his father initially overlooked his symptoms because he never liked to talk about how he felt. His focus remained on family and the gym. By the time he was admitted to the hospital on June 30, his condition had worsened. 

He never left. 

“I never in a million years would have thought my father would have fallen to this disease just as healthy as he was, you know, how committed he was on a day-to-day basis,” Rocha, Jr. said. 

Hector Rocha, Jr. said his family’s focus is on keeping their father’s legacy alive. Photos touting faces of the likes of Muhammad Ali, Oscar De La Hoya, and others sit on display at the gym, posted next to Hector Rocha posing with the many children he coached. 

“My dad, everyone he’s ever coached it’s the lessons of boxing but it’s truly the lesson of life and how how to take those fights in life,” Hector Rocha, Jr. said. 

A funeral service is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 1 p.m. A public viewing will take place at 10 a.m. 

There’s also a fundraiser to keep the gym open, which Hector Rocha, Jr. said will remain a priority. 

About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.