Star-Bulletin Sports


Brian Viloria of Waipahu, right, puts his 6-0 pro record on the line against Sandro Oviedo tomorrow night at Blaisdell Arena.

Viloria seeks return
of golden age

With a win tomorrow, the Waipahu
boxer can go a long way in wooing
isle fans back to the sport

By Jerry Campany

Last year at this time, Brian Viloria accepted the torch from Jesus Salud.

This year, it is about what Viloria can do with it.

Just one year into his career as a professional fighter, Viloria is part of the main event and expected to carry the sport back to the prominence it once had in Hawaii. There was no doubt about it at a pre-fight press conference Tuesday, where it was obvious that this was Viloria's fight to sell.

It seemed every question that was posed was either to Viloria or about Viloria. He did his part to sell tickets by hinting that Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton and a few of his Hollywood friends may be in attendance.

"It comes with every sport, it's part of the game," Viloria said. "It's an honor that it is like this so early in my career. It is a lot more pressure added, but it is a rush."

Viloria will fight Sandro Oviedo tomorrow on the Blaisdell Arena card that starts at 7:30 p.m. He hopes that it will spark a resurgence of interest in the sport he loves, that somehow he can stop the steady decline of interest that has happened since the golden era here.

But he doesn't like to think that it is all on him.

"I'm just here to do what I have to do," Viloria said. "A lot of people put it on me to revive boxing in Hawaii, but it's not just me. It's me and everyone else. That's what makes the hype even more important. I want to help bring the sport back in Hawaii."

Viloria's apprehension about being the top draw in his home state comes because of the respect he has for those who came before him. After just six professional fights, Viloria still feels a little uneasy when his name is mentioned in the same sentence as Salud and Andy Ganigan.

Imagine how he feels when he and Salud share a room and children run past his boyhood hero toward him.

"I'm honored, they are some big shoes to fill in," Viloria said. "From my position as the favorite to win the gold in the Olympics down to the skill as the hardest puncher on the Olympic team ... cultivate all that together and people think I'm the next one. But they (Salud and Ganigan) were the first ones."

Salud also longs for the day when a single fighter could draw 8,000 fans to Pearl Harbor for a contest and is openly rooting for Viloria to bring boxing back. But Salud cautions that it will not happen overnight.

"I know he can do it," Salud said. "Headlining is all about marketability and how popular you are, and he has that. But he is just starting. As the years go by, people will want to see him more. If he keeps winning, people will show up, but they have not really seen him tested yet."

His manager, Gary Gittelsohn, agrees that Viloria is the one to lead boxing back from the sideshow it has become to the main event it once was. However, the manager is not limiting it to Hawaii.

For Gittelsohn, this week is just a training ground for bigger things. First, Viloria brings boxing back to his home state, then he helps bring it back on the national level.

"It's all a part of the development process," Gittelsohn said. "It is done purposely and is a natural test for Brian. He has got to become accustomed to being the main event so that, when he does hit the bright lights of Broadway, it will all be familiar."

But Viloria wants to take care of Hawaii before he conquers the world. And he feels that he might be on his way there.

"I think it's coming back bigger and better," Viloria said of boxing. "It's hard to turn down a Hawaii trip, so it is pretty easy to assemble a good card. It all depends on the fighters giving people a good show each time."

Fight night

Who: Brian Viloria (6-0) vs. Sandro Oviedo (22-17-2) and five other bouts
Where: Blaisdell Center
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: Reserved seats cost $25-75 and are available at the Blaisdell Box Office and Ticket Plus outlets or by phone at 526-4400. Discount tickets $15 for students, seniors and military.

E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin