Ex-fighter Danny Rios’ death shocks local boxing community

There are few happy endings in boxing. Fighters often end up damaged or penniless.

Sometimes, the story ends in tragedy.

Danny Rios didn’t seem to fit the profile. The onetime amateur star, a product of the West Side, was a popular figure in San Antonio’s boxing community, winning back-to-back national Golden Gloves titles in 1992-93.

Outside the ring, Rios had an ability to fit in. He made friends, not enemies.

But on Feb. 21, his brother found him dead in his home, the victim of an apparent murder-suicide.

A police investigation revealed longtime girlfriend Joanne Sandoval, 41, shot and killed Rios, 50, before killing herself.

Family members described the couple’s relationship as stormy. SAPD Chief William McManus said there had “been a number of calls” to the home.

The couple had a daughter less than a year old, according to family members.

News of Rios’ death traveled fast, hitting friends and former colleagues like a punch they didn’t see coming.

“I was shocked,” said Mike Ayala, a stablemate of Rios’ at Tony Ayala Sr.’s Zarzamora Street Gym. “Everybody liked Danny.”

“How terrible,” said James Coker, another former stablemate. “We lost a good one. He was always upbeat. A good fighter and a real good guy.”

Joe Lopez is all too familiar with such tragedies. The West Side trainer estimates Rios was the seventh or eighth boxer who trained at his Angel’s Boxing Club on the West Side who died prematurely in his more than 40 years of coaching.

The list includes Robert Quiroga, San Antonio’s first world champion, who was murdered at age 34, stabbed 13 times by a former rival outside a Northwest Side home in 2004.

“I cried for two years after Robert died,” Lopez said.

And now, Rios.

Lopez remembered happier times when Rios came to his gym at age 10 after starting at the West Side YMCA under Ton Pastran.

“He never stopped throwing punches,” Lopez said. “Other boxers looked up to him.”

“He wouldn’t back down from anybody,” said Andy Pastran, Ton Pastran’s son. “He was always aggressive and had a heart as big as Texas.”

The youngest of five children, Rios survived by three sisters and a brother.

The brother, Ruben Guajardo, went looking for Rios after not hearing from him for several days and found the bodies.

Nephew Andrew Baiza said the family is “shocked and devastated.”

“No one expects the youngest sibling to go first,” he said.

Baiza and Guajardo described Rios as someone who “liked to have fun” and was “always looking to help people.”

“He was an animal lover,” Baiza said. “The house was always full of stray dogs and cats he would bring home.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.