San Antonio on Thursday honored the first World Super Flyweight Champion, Robert “Pikin” Quiroga, a legendary Mexican American boxer and “hero” from the West Side of San Antonio.

City Council approved naming Rosedale Park pavilion — where thousands gather for the annual Conjunto Festival — the Robert “Pikin” Quiroga pavilion.

The recognition for the boxer came after District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo held a public hearing to rename pavilion 2 in Quiroga’s honor, and after area residents, including the Quiroga family, rallied around the request. 

“He was the first American champion to take on this title,” Castillo said. “His legacy inspired so many others. … San Antonio is often referred to as one of the boxing meccas of the world.”

On the West Side, it is. Compared to the rest of the city, the West Side has the most boxing gyms, Castillo said, including Angel’s Boxing Club, owned by Quiroga's former boxing coach Joe Lopez.

A framed photo of Quiroga in the boxing gym show neighborhood kids that they can accomplish if they work hard and stay committed, Lopez said. “I would tell him to run a mile and he would run two.”

Quiroga, a Memorial High School graduate, was known as “Pikin,” Spanish for the pequin pepper, because he was “chiquito pero picoso,” said his brother Epi Quiroga — short and hot.

Quiroga was the first person from the U.S. to claim the World Super Flyweight Champion in 1990, and successfully defended the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Junior Bantamweight Championship five times from 1990 to 1993.

He was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame, the San Antonio National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame and the San Antonio Boxing Hall of Fame and paved the way for San Antonio’s other boxing world champions like John Michael “Bam Bam” Johnson and “Jesse” James Leija.

Quiroga was known for his 1991 fight against the undefeated Akeem Anifowoshe at Hemisfair in what became known as the “Fight of the Year.” He retired in 1995 with a 20- 2 fight record with 11 knockouts.

Robert “Pikin” Quiroga Credit: Courtesy / Quiroga Family

Reynaldo Ramirez, Quiroga’s physiologist and clinical nutritionist in the late 80s, told the city council that Quiroga was known as a local hero and philanthropist who visited elementary schools to encourage children to stay away from gangs.

“We are very honored by what city council decided on,” said Quiroga's mother, Elidia Solis. “I think it's something he earned in his life and I'm so glad they are finally recognizing him for it.”

Quiroga lived about three miles from Rosedale Park. Epi Quiroga said they grew up at Apache Courts public housing until they were 10.

“At 10 years old, that's when he decided he wanted to box,” said Solis. “They would call him champ. He was very humble and loved people.”

Everyday, he would run around Rosedale Park, and oftentimes around the trail at Woodlawn Lake, his brother said.

The main pavilion at Rosedale Park, home of the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival will bear the name of Robert "Pikin" Quiroga.
The main pavilion at Rosedale Park, home of the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival, will bear the name of Robert “Pikin” Quiroga. Credit: Scott Ball / ISF FORUM

Quiroga was murdered in 2004 by “his middle school bully” Richard Merla, said Epi Quiroga. Merla was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

“His middle school bully had hate, envy and jealousy for Robert,” Epi Quiroga said to the council on Thursday. “We started the USA SA Bully-free Campaign … 36,000 kids in San Antonio have heard Robert’s story about his accomplishments, what he did for our community, but how hate, envy and jealousy took him away from us.”

Through the program, Quiroga said 36,000 San Antonio-area children have pledged against bullying.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said it’s important that San Antonio recognize the people who have built the history of the city.

“The stories we tell about ourselves are so important for the next generation and for generations that have not been told about our Latino leaders in this city,” Nirenberg. “This is about appropriately recognizing leaders in the history of San Antonio.”

Epi Quiroga said efforts to honor his brother won't stop with the pavilion. Quiroga will continue to rally around “his vision and dream” to have a statue of Robert Quiroga at Woodlawn Lake.

Raquel Torres is the ISF FORUM's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...