Joaquin Romero, a 35-year-old boxing coach who was killed Sunday in a hit-and-run crash in Denver, was a great friend, a mentor to young boxers and an inspirational coach, said Katie Angell, who had known him for more than a decade.
“I want the whole world to know how amazing he was and how huge of a loss this is for his community,” Angell said. “He truly is a pillar in that community.”
Romero, the owner of Topeira Boxing Club in west Denver, was hit by the driver of an SUV around 2 a.m. Sunday in the 600 block of South Eliot Street, according to Denver police. The driver fled and Romero was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers located a gold Hummer that matched a description of the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run Monday afternoon and have arrested the driver of the vehicle, Omar Delgado, on suspicion of motor vehicle theft and vehicular eluding.
An investigation into whether Delgado and that specific vehicle were involved in the hit-and-run is still ongoing, police said.
Saturday morning, Romero was at Topeira Boxing Club, said Devin Pitts-Rogers, a member of the club since 2015. Pitts-Rogers said he came to the gym to pay his February membership fee, and that he spoke with Romero about an upcoming fight called “Rumble for the Rockies IV.”
The fight is a boxing competition through the organization Haymakers for Hope, which hosts charity boxing events to raise funds for cancer research. Pitts-Rogers competed in the event last year, representing Topeira Boxing Club. He said there will be at least two Topeira representatives in this year’s event, and he volunteered to help out.
“I was talking to Joaquin about it, and he was genuinely excited to not just have other fighters who were coming through here and actually getting that tutelage from the gym itself, but knowing that there were some of us who are returning,” Pitts-Rogers said.
Fighters in the Haymakers event can only compete once, Pitts-Rogers said. He applied to compete three times, but it wasn’t until 2021 that he was accepted. He did most of his training with Romero, he said, who was a dedicated and intense coach. For Pitts-Rogers, the fight was more personal this time because his father had beat prostate cancer in 2020.
“I won my fight, and when I was able to climb out of the ring, I was able to give my dad a hug and tell him that that was for him,” Pitts-Rogers said. “And that was something that I was very quick to tell Joaquin — that I would not have had that opportunity without him.”
When Angell competed in the Colorado Golden Gloves competition almost eight years ago, Romero was in her corner cheering her on, she said.
“He made me feel so strong and powerful,” she said, saying Romero coached her.
Angell didn’t expect to become a boxer, she said, but Romero convinced her to try the sport a few months after they first met. At the time, Romero hadn’t yet opened the Topeira Boxing Club. Instead, he was teaching people to box in his garage.
Later, in 2013, Romero opened the club at 2710 W. Alameda Ave. He lived just a few blocks away and wanted to support his community, Angell said. Over the years, Angell witnessed the boxing club grow, saying there is a lot of diversity in its members, from professional athletes to children — an audience Romero especially wanted to help.
“He just really wanted to support young kids,” Angell said, saying she believes he saved a lot of kids’ lives by providing a safe outlet for them in the boxing club. “He was just such a tremendous mentor to so many people, including me.”
Keeping Topeira open is important to community members like Pitts-Rogers and Angell, who described the club as part of Romero’s legacy. A GoFundMe fundraising campaign has raised more than $48,000 within the past few days, money meant, in part, to keep Topeira Boxing Club open.
“Topeira was a true family,” Angell said, adding that people in the gym were welcoming and supportive of everyone. “I think it’s important, too, to just keep the momentum of what Joaquin built within that community and continue to grow upon it.”
The Romero family will host a vigil at Topeira Boxing Club at 11 a.m. Saturday, according to the GoFundMe page, and community members are invited to attend to celebrate Romero’s life and legacy.
“I think that gym is kind of a symbol of Joaquin and what he built for everyone. And though he’s not going to be there anymore, at least we know he’s there in our hearts.”
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