Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, March 20, 1997

Salud not yet ready
to hang up his gloves

DON'T go around feeling sorry for Jesus Salud. I was, at first, after seeing the former Nanakuli resident get outpunched by Kevin Kelley in a fight televised between basketball games on ESPN last week.

Kelley retained his World Boxing Union featherweight title with a unanimous decision over Salud, who might have won two rounds at best. Salud even got decked in the first round, a rarity for him.

Salud, who'll be 34 in May, has slowed a bit, which is tough for fighters in his weight classification since speed is their best weapon. So I found it sad to see him get beat like that the other night.

It appears that champions want to fight Salud in nontitle tune-ups. And up-and-coming fighters seek Salud out because a victory over him would sure look good on their resumes.

A "trial horse," they call it in the boxing world. But Salud doesn't think he's ready to be put out to pasture yet.

"I still feel like I got it," said Salud, who's in town for a week to set up a janitorial business with his three brothers.

His manager, Bob DePhilippis, agrees.

"Jesus can still fight," DePhilippis said. He admitted that Salud didn't look too good against Kelley. "But we took him up to 126 (pounds) and Kelley turned out to be a lot bigger. Still, if the guy wasn't a slick lefty, it might have been different."

Salud had only two weeks to prepare for Kelley at the latter's hometown of Albany, N.Y. The loss was Salud's ninth against 54 victories, but he earned around $25,000, not a bad payday on such a short notice.

"They talked to him (Kelley) for three hours to convince him to fight Salud," DePhilippis said.

Salud is still that highly respected, according to DePhilippis. "He hasn't lost a 10-round fight in years. He's lost title fights and fights in other countries."

DESPITE losing, Salud got in some licks. Kelley suffered bruised ribs. After the 12-round International Boxing Federation title fight he lost to Vuyani Bungu in South Africa last August, the champion still was so banged up that he hasn't fought since then, according to DePhilippis.

As for resume seekers, Salud easily outpointed Guty Espadas, who was 20-1. "I kind of like the idea that people want to use me as a stepping stone. I didn't get the opportunities like they're having. Besides, I like the challenge," Salud said.

DePhilippis feels Salud can still get a shot at the World Boxing Council's 122-pound title before the end of the year. Meanwhile, in the works is a title match against Jesse Magana, the North American Boxing Organization champion.

"He's a tough kid. He trains hard. He just needs a break," DePhilippis says about Salud, who was stripped of his WBA crown because of political chicanery. "He's still a very viable title contender."

There's some scuttlebutt about setting up Salud in a nontitle fight here later this year against Luisito Espinosa, the World Boxing Council featherweight champion. It would be a big-money fight for Salud, the "Hawaiian Punch." And Espinosa evokes good memories among local Filipino followers.

ESPINOSA won three bouts, two by TKOs, at the Blaisdell Arena in 1989 when he was an up-and-coming featherweight. He certainly lived up to all expectations.

DePhilippis wouldn't mind coming back for that fight.

"He's a style of fighter for Jesus," he said. "The guy doesn't move but likes to slug it out. If the money's right, perfect."

One thing's for sure, says DePhilippis, "If the fight's in Hawaii, Salud will do it. He's never lost in Hawaii. If it's in the Philippines, I'll leave that up to Salud. They might not let him out of the country."

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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