Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, May 17, 2001


Viloria, 1-0
and counting,
begins to tap
pro potential

An ESPN2 executive tells
Moffatt they want to feature
the Hawaii boxer again -- soon

By Paul Arnett

Tom Moffatt walked into his office early yesterday morning feeling a little wiped out after the Tuesday night fight card featuring Brian Viloria and Jesus Salud.

On his message machine was a call from the boxing program director for ESPN2, who was ecstatic about the two-hour show held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

"He was very excited at how well things went and he wants to come back as soon as possible and do another show," Moffatt said. "It was very encouraging and is the kind of thing needed to bring big-time boxing back to Hawaii."

Viloria not only scored a unanimous four-round decision over Ben Jun Escobia in his professional debut, but he put on an entertaining show.

The U.S. Olympic boxer from Waipahu showed his power and his ability to take one on the chin. Twice, Escobia landed solid right hands that might have rocked other opponents, but Viloria kept coming in.

"He's fun to watch," longtime local boxing observer Bobby Lee said. "We've had other Olympic boxers here before, but this kid has something.

"This is one of the best crowds we've had for boxing in a long time. I'm hopeful this is the start of a revival for boxing locally. It was a good show."

The one downer of the evening was the eighth-round technical knockout scored by Fernando "Bobby Boy" Velardez over Salud. The Nanakuli resident didn't look like the Salud of old; he just looked slow in the exchanges.

"Nobody had a more beautiful counter left hand than Salud in his prime," Lee said. "He would have taken out a guy like this 10 years ago, no problem. But he just doesn't have the speed he once had. He's gone to loading up one punch to take a guy out and that's tough to do. He should think hard about his future."

Viloria is thinking hard as well, but in a more positive spectrum. He has plenty of opportunities resting on the table for manager Gary Gittelsohn to review. He could be on another ESPN card or he might be part of the Oscar De La Hoya drama scheduled next month in Las Vegas.

"HBO's Boxing After Dark could be a possibility as well," Gittelsohn said. "It's all good for Brian who deserves this kind of attention. Not only is he a good boxer in the ring, but a great person out of it. That's very rare in this sport."

It's also rare to bring 2,500 paying customers to a fight on Tuesday afternoon in Hawaii. Actually, it's unheard of and speaks volumes of Viloria's drawing power in and out of the ring. Moffatt noticed that about Viloria as well.

Not only was the 20-year-old on time for his workouts and press conferences, but he also took part in a Waikiki parade with Salud last Saturday, spoke with Perry and Price on their radio show and attended a luncheon at the Marriott for Assets Athletics. Among the guests was Gov. Ben Cayetano's wife, Vicky.

"I told him it would be about 15 minutes and he could speak on whatever he wanted to," Moffatt said. "He was great. It was a little heavy early on, about growing up and his goals. Then he made it kind of light when he talked about the school he attended in northern Michigan and how he was the only non-haole in the room.

"By the time he worked back to being serious again at the end, we all had tears in our eyes. This kid is the complete package. He's just what this sport needs, a great role model. I was very pleased with everything. Let's do it again real soon."

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