Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, May 15, 2001


Brian Viloria, left, shook hands with today's opponent
Ben Jun Escobia, right, as they pass each other at the
Kalakaua Boxing Club last night.

Hype continues
for Viloria’s debut

The Waipahu boxer
fights Escobia in his first
pro bout today at HCC

By Paul Arnett

Normally, a weigh-in at Kalakaua Gym draws the state boxing commissioners and maybe a trainer or two, and that's it.


But those who have followed the boxing careers of Jesus Salud and Brian Viloria know this afternoon's five-bout event at the Hawaii Convention Center isn't your typical club card.

Longtime boxing man Bobby Lee looked around the room filled with fight fans and slowly shook his head. He had never seen anything like this and might not again, as Salud prepares to hand off the torch to Viloria as the top local ring attraction.

"This is so good for boxing," Lee said. "ESPN is here and that's big for us. Hopefully, they'll keep coming back as Brian progresses in his pro career."

Viloria has a scheduled four-round bout with 30-year-old Ben Jun Escobia. The Waipahu resident weighed 111 1/2 for the 112-pound bout. Escobia, who is 13-13-3 lifetime, tipped the scales at 107 1/2.

Although Viloria is technically one of the four undercard bouts for Salud's 10-round main event with Fernando "Bobby Boy" Velardez, it's the U.S. Olympic boxer's pro debut many folks are coming to see.

"Tickets are going well," promoter Tom Moffatt said. "It's pretty evenly distributed in the different price ranges (from $25 to $100 ringside). We expect a big walk-up (today). That's how it is here."

All five of the bouts were approved at yesterday's weigh-in. Salud came in at 126 1/4 for the 127-pound featured event. Velardez weighed in at 126 1/2.

Velardez has talent, but may lack the experience to stay with Salud who has never lost a fight in Hawaii.

"I don't see a kid 20 years old beating Jesus," Salud manager Bobby DePhilippis said. "I wish we had taken a different fight plan (in Salud's last match, which he lost on a sixth-round TKO to world champion Marco Antonio Barrera). But this should be a good test for Jesus."

The card begins at 3 p.m. with a women's title bout between Ann Wolfe and Vienna Williams. Viloria is scheduled to step through the ropes a little before 4 p.m. as part of the ESPN2 telecast that will be blacked out locally.

Salud will go on after Viloria. The nationally televised card is scheduled to last two hours.

"I feel very good and ready to go," Salud said after the weigh-in. "This kid looks like a good fighter. I always enjoy fighting in Hawaii. I'm so proud of Brian and am very happy to be a part of his first fight.

"Like I've said, I believe he's going to be a world champion some day because of his power. He hits hard with both hands and has great vision in the ring."

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