Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, May 12, 2001


Jesus Salud
"Passing the torch"

Salud ready
to pass torch
to Viloria

Salud hopes to keep his Hawaii
unbeaten streak alive while pulling
for Viloria to start one of his own

By Dave Reardon

The past and future of Hawaii boxing intersected yesterday -- as they will again Tuesday at the Hawaii Convention Center, under much brighter lights and for a national audience.

Brian Viloria and Jesus Salud, the sweet science's sweetest local products of the past 20 years, worked out yesterday at Kalakaua Gym in preparation for next week's ESPN Tuesday Night Fights event. The six-bout lineup includes U.S. Olympian Viloria's pro debut and another homecoming for the grizzled but enthusiastic Salud.

"It's fantastic. We come from the same club (Waipahu Boxing Club), and I'm passing the torch to him," Salud said.

Salud (62-10-0, 37 KOs), a former world champion who has never lost in Hawaii, headlines with a 10-round junior featherweight fight against Fernando "Bobby Boy" Velardez (17-4-1, 4 KOs) of San Bernardino, Calif.

Viloria launches his fight-for-pay career against Ben Jun Escobia (13-13-3, 5 KOs) of the Philippines in a battle of flyweights scheduled for four rounds. Viloria wouldn't pick a round, but he said he expects to end it early.

Brian Viloria of Waipahu trained at Kalakaua Gym yesterday
for his pro debut Tuesday against Ben Jun Escobia.

"I've been watching tapes of him," Viloria said. "I should be able to take him out."

That's about as brash as the 20-year-old known for his politeness gets. If he had needed any humility knocked into him, it happened at the Olympics last year in Sydney, where he surprisingly lost in the second round to Brahim Aslough of France.

"He's never spoken about it, so I don't think there's anything that dwells on his mind about the Olympics," said Gary Gittelsohn, Viloria's manager. "He's still the amateur world champion and, as he makes his pro debut, he's looking forward, not backward."

Viloria said he thinks about the loss once in awhile.

"It keeps me grounded. Anything can happen, so you have to stay on top of your game," he said.

For the past month, Viloria has been training under Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif.

He's successfully avoided distractions, despite being neighbors with Shaquille O'Neal and other celebrities.

"I've never seen a fighter so attuned to the task at hand," Gittelsohn added. "He's been living at my house for over a month, so I've been able to evaluate that up close and personal. During that time he's eaten, slept and awoken to nothing but boxing."

So has Salud, who turned 38 on May 3 and has been fighting as a pro since Viloria was a baby.

"I love the gym, I love the idea of going there every day and my body getting stronger. I have the desire, I haven't been badly hurt," said Salud, who added with a smile, "I'm still in there.

"Mexican fighters come to fight, and they're hungry," he said of Velardez. "It's going to be the kind of fight I like. He won't be dancing around. He'll be right in front of me."

Tuesday's other fights match junior bantamweights Jose Navarro (3-0-0, 0 KOs, Los Angeles) and Carlos Zambrano (3-4-1, 1 KO, Los Angeles), six rounds; junior middleweights Ann Wolfe (6-1-0, 4 KOs, Austin, Texas) and Vienna Williams (5-0-0, 2 KOs), 10 rounds for the IFBA women's championship; bantamweights Trena Drotar (3-4-0, 3 KOs, Esterhazy, Canada) and Roberta Baldeagle (0-1-0, Las Vegas), four rounds; and junior welterweights John Lopez (5-4-0, 3 KOs, Hilo) and Anthony Simpkins (7-1-1, 3 KOs, Augusta, Ga.), eight rounds.

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