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Casamina on a mission to revive Hawaii boxing


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POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

Roland Casamina looks like a former fighter—a slick one who didn't get hit much. And he's got a name you can just imagine a ring announcer emphasizing in all the right places.

He's the 55-year-old owner of a residential financing company. He hung out at Kalakaua Gym as a kid and grew to love the boxing game.

Casamina's not on the card, but if Brian Viloria is to revive pro boxing in Hawaii a week from tomorrow, it will be with a lot of help from him.

The “;Island Assault”; promotion headlining Viloria could more aptly be called “;Last Stand”; because of the dormant state of the sport here the past 30 years.

The card was approved by the boxing commission yesterday at a meeting intriguing only for its lack of intrigue. Usually, something's wrong when nothing's wrong in boxing, but other than a few minor details on the contracts, everything seems to be in order. The absence of Bobby Lee—the most respected boxing man in the state and its unofficial ombudsman—signals either all is in order or beyond repair. The former seems more likely, and this show will go on. But how many will pay to watch it?

THAT'S WHERE Casamina, the commission's newest member, comes in.

He is a success story, arriving here at 14 from the Philippines and graduating from Farrington and the University of Hawaii's business school before embarking on a banking and real estate career.

He and L&L honcho Eddie Flores spearheaded the building of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, providing a good chunk of the money themselves.

Casamina is making it his personal mission to sell this card. He has a campaign planned that includes speaking at Filipino community functions in Ewa Beach, Waipahu, Wahiawa and Kalihi. It will really kick into gear when Viloria gets here Monday.

“;I'll be doing direct marketing to the Filipino fans,”; Casamina says. “;This is my forte, and I specialize in the Filipino market. Historically, we have been the backbone of the fight crowd.”;

ON THE surface, it looks like an easy sell. And it should be. Homecoming for a local boy, articulate, polite, handsome, former Olympian ... oh yeah, and a reigning world champion, too. Viloria's in the right place, but is it the wrong time?

They say boxing thrives in bad economic times, but that doesn't align with a minimum ticket price of $40. That's actually pretty fair considering it's to see a world title defense. But these days some fans simply don't have it.

Are people like Viloria, promoter Tom Moffatt and Casamina performing CPR on a patient that flatlined long ago?

“;He's got a great image and he's an excellent speaker,”; Moffatt says of Viloria. “;I hope he'll speak to youth groups. I went to one with him and he knocked me out. He's a credit to the sport.”;

Moffatt knows that if you give the Filipino fans one of their own, they'll show—as they did for Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda.

Casamina adds that Manny Pacquiao's success has spiked fight interest to new highs. Three up-and-coming Filipino fighters grace the card, too. That'll be nice for the TV ratings in Manila.

As for the gate at the Blaisdell: If Brian Viloria—the latest in a long line of local Filipino world champions—can't bring them in, who can?