Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

For Viloria, today is
when it becomes real

HE started off simply, but then the crowd grew and so did the show. Faster and fancier and fiercer. Then he was on his knees, like one of those crazy Russian dancers. A 360 now. A cross-over now. One foot, then two, then the other, fancy steps. And then he was going so fast that the rope was invisible, and the people just stood there, mouths agape, round and open, then slowly forming smiles of delight. The only sound was the constant soft and gentle swishing noise of the rope in the air, the wind whispering through the pines.

And then, feeling the joy of the jump rope, Brian Viloria allowed himself a grin, the big beaming smile of a man who is not yet so far from being a boy. A man who, at that moment, was feeling the best of being young and strong and powerful and alive and ready for it all. A man who had everything in front of him, and knew it.

Brian Viloria, local boy, Olympic favorite, the biggest 112-pound man in the world, turns pro today.

Oh, he turned pro a while ago, signed the contracts and did the deals, but today it all happens, today it becomes real. Today the hype shows up, and the lights and the ESPN cameras and the excitement and the electricity happen. In his first pro fight, he's in it all the way up to his neck.

Hometown crowd. National television. A dream come true. Times 10. Times 50.

"This is pretty special," Lou DiBella, the "matchmaker" said. "I mean, this is a great opportunity for Brian. I mean, it happens every so often that a young guy gets to make his pro debut at home. But it's only the impressive fighters that get that opportunity, and to get it on national television, for a Hawaiian kid who weighs 112 pounds to be on national television in his first fight, that's pretty amazing."


"I think that it's an extraordinary way of turning pro," Viloria's manager, Gary Gittelsohn, said.

Extraordinary it is.

They think this guy is the real thing.

World title real thing. Star real thing. Superstar real thing.

He has all the tools to be a champion, they say.

"He has all that," Jesus Salud said, "and he will be."

Not "if," not "but," not "maybe."


That's a strong word.

But Viloria had ESPN setting up shop in Honolulu, on today's undercard with Salud.

He has the goods to attract a guy named Lou with an East Coast accent who calls himself a "matchmaker."

(Now that's pro boxing.)

WATCH VILORIA effortlessly, tirelessly, feinting, moving, seeing an imaginary opponent with him in the ring: "Sh! Sh! Sh! Sh!" There. The power. The quickness. Lightning punches corresponding with each Sh! Hard punches. Power punches. Stuff you wouldn't get in front of if you weighed 200 pounds.

But that's not why ESPN is here. That's not why Lou or Gittelsohn are here.

He's got that special "something," they say. Personality. Charisma. Whatever. Superstars have it. Viloria, they say, has it.

"I think he can turn around the face of boxing," Gittelsohn said.

In the middle of jump rope, you see it, that face slipping from a boxer's seriousness to a young man's joy. He has everything in front of him. It all starts today.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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