Temporarily KO’d by the loss of their boxing gym, couple goes mobile with pizza side hustle
By Natalie Trimble Lozano
Photography by Olaf Growald
What do you do when your business catches fire? You turn up the heat approximately 700 degrees. Late last fall, an electrical fire damaged the Total KO Boxing Club. When repairs were delayed because of an insurance conflict, owners Jonathan and Sarah Saenz took their side hustle, Brick-Oven Knockouts pizza, to the streets.
The truck originally opened in April 2022 at the gym, serving pizzas that paid tribute to ring legends, like the Tyson Supreme, Willie-Pep Pepperoni and Three Cheese D’amato. Initially, Jonathan was making the pizza with his mom and another boxer — Sarah wasn’t interested.
When the truck relaunched this spring, “actually making the pizza” changed Sarah’s mind. And before long, she was tossing dough and adding sauce and toppings while Jonathan served customers.
He also slides the pizzas off the peel they’re made on and into the 600- to 800-degree oven. After a few minutes, Jonathan pulls each one out to finish it with an olive oil and cheese garnish. Getting the oven that hot is an all-day endeavor; it goes up about 100 degrees each hour.
It also took a while to perfect the charred look of their pizza. “It’s not just about it tasting good but about it looking good, too,” Jonathan says. “It has to be even.”
In addition to standard pizza toppings, BOKO specializes in chicken pizzas, like the Drago Chicken and Ranch, which has a ranch base with chicken, bacon, jalapenos, and mozzarella. “His brains and my creativity, they just go hand in hand,” Sarah says.
Sarah makes the dough, sauces and toppings in-house, sourcing locally when possible, with gluten-free options available.
Some of their skills inside the boxing ring transferred to the food truck: “patience, perseverance and our people skills, too,” Jonathan says. “We were always dealing with a wide range of people at the gym.”
Their first food truck gig was an event at Fort Worth City Hall, but they eventually landed a permanent spot in the parking lot of Movement Fort Worth (formerly Summit Gym) late Friday and Saturday evenings.
Sarah and Jonathan first met through mutual friends after he returned from serving in the Army in Iraq. They married, then opened Total KO with Jonathan’s mom. The couple’s two young daughters are especially supportive of their parents’ pizza business.
“They help us when they want to, and they love it,” Sarah says. The girls are already effective marketers. Mentions of Brick-Oven Knockouts to their friends and teachers always end with “‘Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram,’” Sarah says.
Because negotiations with the insurance company have delayed gym repairs, they are using the profits from their pizza business to speed up the rebuilding process. “We can’t wait to get back to boxing, but we’re loving doing this right now,” Jonathan says.