RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Phil Baroni, right, and Kala Kolohe Hose will fight in tonight's main event at the Blaisdell Arena.
Baroni brings big talk to tonight’s fight
One is a loud, trash-talking, veteran fighter from New York who has fought on the biggest shows all across the world.
The other is a soft-spoken and humble local boy from Waianae preparing for his first main event title fight.
Phil Baroni and Kala Kolohe Hose are polar opposites outside the ring, but once they step through the ropes, their fighting styles are the same.
Stand and trade until somebody gets knocked out.
It should make for an exciting main event as the two fighters battle for the vacant world middleweight championship tonight as Icon Sport presents: To Hell and Back at the Blaisdell Arena beginning at 5 p.m.
Baroni enters the fight as the quintessential bad guy, but easily has the edge in experience. He has fought Japanese fighters in PRIDE in Japan and is coming off a fight with Frank Shamrock in his hometown of San Jose, so fighting in Hose's backyard isn't anything new.
"After four knockouts in Japan, (the fans) were rooting for me," Baroni said. "I know the Hawaiian fans are really going to be supporting this kid and I'm going to knock him out and smash him. Eventually (the fans) will have no choice but to cheer for me. I'm going to knock this kid out and then defend the belt against anyone."
Baroni gives Icon Sport its first true bad guy since Jason "Mayhem" Miller first came to Hawaii. Miller was showered in boos for all of his early fights in Icon until he racked up eight straight wins over local fighters.
Eventually, Hawaii came to embrace Miller as its own. Baroni expects to have the same success Miller had, but his attitude won't change.
"I ain't going to be like Mayhem Miller and talk in Hawaiian and pidgin," Baroni said. "I'm me. I am who I am. I'm from New York."
Seven of Baroni's 10 victories have been by knockout, while all five of Hose's wins have come the same way.
In order to train for tonight's fight, Hose spent a month in San Jose sparring with Shamrock, who beat Baroni in his last outing.
Hose said it was the best training experience of his career and made him that much more confident in his chances against Baroni.
"It was more about training smarter," Hose said. "What I notice down here is a lot of the local boys aren't balanced. That's the main thing he taught me was balance."
Whether at a local autograph signing or at Wednesday's press conference, Baroni hasn't shied away from getting in Hose's face and talking trash.
Hose hasn't responded to any of it, choosing instead to just smile and wait for tonight to do something about it.
"He can do whatever he likes, he's only wasting his own energy," Hose said.
Tonight marks Baroni's first fight in Hawaii, but it isn't his first experience with the Icon promotion.
Back when Icon was known as SuperBrawl, Baroni cornered Miller and Enson Inoue and has followed the lineage of the middleweight title closely.
"I remember seeing Masanori Suda beating Egan Inoue," Baroni recalled. "That's how long I've been here. I know this belt means something. It's a prestigious belt."
Hose has prepared three different times to fight for the title, but only now is getting his opportunity. Former champion Robbie Lawler pulled out of two different fights with Hose due to injury, forcing the company to strip him of the belt.
Hose understands Baroni's track record, but says fighting in Hawaii is completely different than anywhere else he has experienced.
"I think the crowd is going to be very entertaining," Hose said. "The whole island is coming."
Baroni laughs at the thought. To him, Hose is just another fighter who is in over his head.
"He's jumping into the deep end of the pool without his swimmys on, you know what I mean?" he said. "I'm going to shut the Hawaiian fans up and knock him out and show everyone what a real middleweight champion looks like."