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Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

Hawaii's Olympians  The Road to Sydney

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
U.S. Olympic boxer Brian Viloria throws some punches
in the ring during a workout at Kalakaua Gym in Kalihi.

Viloria takes on
golden hue of
national spotlight

Sports Illustrated covers the
Waipahu boxer from head to toe
in gold paint for a photo shoot

By Pat Bigold


People have been coloring Brian Viloria since he beat Cuba's best for the world amateur light flyweight title last year.

The popular shades are gold for Olympic medal and green for the fortune promoters are already lining up to offer him.

As if that pressure wasn't enough, Sports Illustrated officially gilded the 19-year-old Waipahu resident this month.

"We did a photo shoot and they painted me in gold," Viloria said by phone from the Colorado Springs training center.

"I looked like a statue. They put it all over my body. My face. My hair."

Viloria, somewhat surprised at being the only boxer selected by SI for the golden boy pose, said the water-based colors "felt cold" being applied.

"They did one photo in the boxing ring and one on top of the roof with the sky as the background," he said.

A spokesman at SI acknowledged the photo shoot but would not reveal the magazine's plans for the art.

"It's a secret," he said.

As for Viloria, he was more concerned with getting the paint off his skin after the session.

"It came off but I really had to scrub," he said.

The photo shoot with Teen Magazine the next day was a lot less complicated.

Viloria is a young athlete whose Olympic dream has exploded into a kaleidoscope of publicity.

He became a media darling after the world championship and even more so since he secured his 106-pound berth on the Olympic team.

He's a devastating hitter, coveted by promoters Don King and Bob Arum, and he's well-spoken enough to draw reporters like flies to honey.

He's been called America's "Mighty Mouse" for his diminutive 5-foot-3 stature, as well as "The Hawaiian Punch," an unoriginal nickname given by the mainland press to almost every Hawaii-born boxing celebrity (Andy Ganigan and Jesus Salud also were billed that way).

During the Olympic athletes' media session in Houston earlier this month, Viloria was one of the most interviewed subjects.

The media exercises are almost as exacting as his training for Sydney.

But Viloria can still recall an experience at age 11 that fired his imagination about Olympic glory.

"When I met two of the 1992 Olympians at the Waipahu gym, Oscar De La Hoya and Eric Griffin, they encouraged me," he said. "We sparred, trained. We have videos at home."

The warmth shown him by De La Hoya and Griffin rubbed off on Viloria. He said he never tires of chatting with youngsters who want to ask all sorts of questions.

"Do you get mad when you fight?" "Does it hurt to get hit?"

After a scheduled exhibition series of bouts against the Ukraine in Fort Worth, Texas yesterday, Viloria is expected to be in Honolulu until July 10. It's a chance to do what he likes best.

"I'm just happy to hang out with my dad, my brother, my old friends, go back to the old gym and talk to my old coaches," he said.

Olympic Profile


Brian Viloria

Bullet Age: 19
Bullet Hometown: Waipahu
Bullet Sport: Boxing (106 pounds)
Bullet Olympics: First
Bullet Olympic dream quote: "When I met two of the 1992 Olympians at the Waipahu gym, Oscar De La Hoya and Eric Griffin, they encouraged me."

Sydney 2000 Olympics

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