Baroni back in Hawaii looking for redemption
Phil Baroni was uncharacteristically sympathetic in his return to Hawaii.
ICON SPORT: HARD TIMES
When: 5 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Blaisdell Arena
"I want to apologize to all the Hawaiian fans," was Baroni's opening remark at Wednesday's press conference promoting tomorrow's Icon Sport: Hard Times event at the Blaisdell Arena.
"I came in overconfident and not in shape," Baroni continued. "I didn't put on a performance that I should have."
His comments were in reference to a fifth-round TKO loss to Waianae's Kala Kolohe Hose in March's world middleweight title showdown that turned Hose into an instant star and left Baroni beaten and bloodied.
Not one to be held down, Baroni is back and looks for redemption, and respect, as he takes on another tough local fighter in Ron Verdadero in one of three bouts for tomorrow night's card that features 14 fights in all.
"I learned the hard way Hawaiian guys are tough," Baroni said. "They got coconut heads."
The loss was one of two big setbacks for Baroni this year. He lasted just 71 seconds in a TKO loss to Joey Villasenor on the first mixed martial arts card broadcast on network television when EliteXC debuted on CBS in May.
Staring a three-fight losing streak and the possibility of never being at the level he once was, Baroni took a step back during the summer to evaluate what to do next.
"I was looking at my career and what I have and what I should have," Baroni said. "I've had to look deep into myself."
He also had help from his fiancee, Angela, who has built the backbone for Baroni's hopeful turnaround both in and out of the ring.
"I never have had support like that at home," Baroni said. "I've always been on my own. Family is really important. I have to fight for more than myself and my personal satisfaction.
"I have to fight for my family and be able to put money on the table and make a living. I want to be someone who when I have a son or a daughter they can be proud of (me) and not be that type of person where you don't want to show them your job or how you are when you fight."
He dropped to 170 pounds for a fight in London three weeks ago and had a highlight-reel knockout of Ryan Jensen that quickly became a YouTube hit.
At this weight class I'm 1-0 with one knockout," Baroni said. "That's how I'm looking at it."
Verdadero's first fight with Icon was in 1999 when the promotion was still called Super Brawl. After taking a five-year hiatus to take care of his ailing daughter, he returned to the sport in 2006 and is looking to make a name for himself at the tender age of 36.
"I'm not getting any younger, but this is big for me. I want to take some big steps and I feel I'm ready for it."
Verdadero got the call to fight Baroni a month ago, and said yes without hesitation, but it came with a catch.
"They said I had to fight at 175," Verdadero said. "When I got off the phone I jumped on the scale and I weighed 212."
He's managed to drop 30 pounds in five weeks and expects to be at weight for today's weigh-in.
The event also includes a showdown for the North American title at 140 pounds between Pearl City's Mark Oshiro and Bao Quach and a non-title fight between Hose and unknown Rolando Dominique. Sydney Silva returns after a year-long layoff and Ed Newalu makes his first appearance in an Icon ring since handing Oshiro his only professional loss in 2005.
Doors open at 4 p.m. with the first fight scheduled to begin at 5.