Monday, April 14, 2003


Viloria card gives
isle boxers a chance

Local fighters gain an
opportunity with the return
of the 2000 Olympian

By Jerry Campany


Where: Sheraton Waikiki
When: Tomorrow
Tickets: $75 ringside, $50 reserved, $25 general admission. Available by calling 877-750-4400 or at the Blaisdell Box Office and selected Foodland and Sack-n-Save stores.
Main event: Brian Viloria (11-0, 6 KOs), vs. Valentin Leon (14-5, 6 KOs)

Brian Viloria is not the only one with a lot riding on tomorrow's boxing card at the Sheraton Waikiki.

As the No. 5 flyweight in the world, according to the World Boxing Council, any loss would cost Viloria a spot in the Top 10 and certainly set his march toward a world title back.

Others on the card are just trying to pay the bills.

Eric Alexander, a 32-year-old welterweight from Kalihi, has plans almost as big as Viloria's. He hasn't fought since last year when Viloria was in town, and took three years off before that.

But Alexander is still the No. 55 welterweight in the world, according to's rankings. And he thinks now is the time to cash in on it.

"This fight is pretty important for me," Alexander said. "My manager (Leon Panoncillo) says he can get another fight in Vegas if I look good, and (card promoter) Tom Moffatt said I would headline my own local card. But I have to win first."

Alexander will take on Calvin Odom (11-4, 8 KOs) of Los Angeles, who is 11 years younger than Alexander and ranked 191st by the Web site. There's also a big gap in the two fighters' resumes: Alexander had 25 professional fights before Odom made his debut.

Odom has a reputation for starting slow and suffering mental lapses, which may allow Alexander to jump on him and end the fight early. However, Alexander knows nothing about Odom besides that he is younger and bound to be quicker.

Alexander just came out of retirement and started training two months ago. He plans to make adjustments as the fight goes along, as he did last year in a decision over Jerry Balagbagan.

Even if he does win convincingly, Alexander may scuttle his manager's plans for him for the chance to call himself Hawaii's best welterweight. Panoncillo tells Alexander to aim higher, but Alexander wants to fight Teddy Limoz Jr.

"When I had the title, he wanted to fight me, but I was like, 'Who's this guy?'" Alexander said. "Now that he has the (WBO Asian Pacific Welterweight) title, it might be time to see who is the best in Hawaii."

Preceding Alexander's fight will be the first contest pitting a local fighter against a mainland boxer. Honolulu's Tali Kulihaapai (8-3, 7 KOs), a teammate of Alexander's on Hawaii's 'Dream team' card in 1996, hooks up with John Clark (4-2, 4 KOs) of Los Angeles in a heavyweight clash scheduled for six rounds.

Kulihaapai, 37, has lost his last three fights, but is unbeaten in Hawaii. Clark has fought some impressive opponents in his short career, losing by decision to Chauncey Welliver (13-1, 6 KOs) in his second pro fight and Mike Mollo (11-0, 6 KOs) in his fourth.

Sitafine Talosaga (3-0) of Kalihi is scheduled to fight David Bihana (2-2) of Waimanalo if Bihana is cleared by the state boxing commission today. The commission held up Bihana's license until he gets a more complete physical.

Kalihi's Jerry Saribay (3-3, 2 KOs) takes on John Lopez (6-6, 3 KOs) of Hilo in a super lightweight clash, hoping to atone for a mistake in his second professional fight. Lopez took advantage of Saribay's inexperience by flooring him 2 1/2 years ago on a single punch in the second round.

Lopez has since fought 2000 Olympian Ricardo Williams, losing by TKO, and Roberto Rios, who beat him on points. Lopez hasn't fought since 2001, while Saribay has been active but lost his last two.

Viloria takes particular interest and pride in the first two fights on the card, because they represent four local fighters' pro debuts, debuts that may not have happened here without him coming home to put on a show.

"The new fighters are a motivational factor for me," Viloria said. "Just like Jesus Salud and Andy Ganigan fought for me, I fight for them. It really excites me that I could give them this opportunity."

Jay Saribay of Kalihi takes on Travis Tandel of Kaimuki in a lightweight bout after Rodney Joseph of Waianae clashes with Mark Mariko of Kalihi in a heavyweight contest. The Saribay-Tandel match pits two pure boxers, while the Mariko-Joseph fight matches up a pair of sluggers who never move backward.

Regardless of how the undercard shapes up, it will be remembered by how Viloria performs as the new flag bearer for Hawaii boxing.

That is fine with Alexander, who has come out of retirement the last two times Viloria has headed a card in his home state.

"Brian Viloria has a certain aura around him," Alexander said. "He brings excitement to every card he is involved in."

World Boxing Council
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