he’s likely retired
The Hawaii boxing legend
still trains, but says it would
take "a big payday" to get
him back in the ring
Jesus Salud can't bring himself to say he is completely retired from boxing yet. But the former world champion from Nanakuli and Waipahu acknowledged yesterday it is very likely he has fought his last fight.
"The odds are big against (a comeback)," Salud said. "I still get some offers, but it would have to be a big payday for me to do it. I'm still training, so I guess you can say I'm semi-retired. But I probably won't be back."
Salud's professional record is 63-13 with 39 knockouts. But he lost his last two bouts and four of his last five. He hasn't fought since April 27 of last year, when he lost by unanimous decision to William Abelyan.
His career began with a third-round knockout of Cesar Zulueta on June 28, 1983. Salud -- trained in the early years by Al Silva of the Waipahu Boxing Club -- won his first 20 fights, and he took the WBA's super bantamweight championship when he beat Juan Jose Estrada by disqualification on Dec. 11, 1989 -- the highlight of Salud's career.
Salud forfeited that belt when he decided not to travel to Colombia for a mandatory title defense, and the next 13 years were spent trying to reclaim a world title. His last championship fight was a sixth-round loss by TKO to Marco Antonio Barrera for the WBO title Dec. 1, 2000, in Las Vegas.
There were other big fights, in front of big crowds at the Great Western Forum and Ward Field at Pearl Harbor.
"His legacy is he's a bona fide world's champion and he lasted pretty long near the top," said WBC vice president Bobby Lee, who was inducted with Salud into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year. "He was a good boxer-puncher and a very classy person. He never complained, except once."
That was May 15, 2001, when Salud headlined a card at the Hawaii Convention Center that also featured Brian Viloria's pro debut.
Fernando Velardez beat Salud with an eighth-round TKO. The fight was stopped due to a deep cut to Salud's face; Salud contends to this day the fight should not have been stopped. It was his only loss in Hawaii, where Salud -- who spent some of his prime years based in San Diego -- has a 36-1 pro record.
Through it all, Salud has enjoyed a solid reputation as an affable sportsman and boxing ambassador.
"When I became world champion, I told myself I have to be a good person," Salud said. "Not just a good fighter, but a good person in the way I carry myself because a lot of people, especially kids, looked up to me."
Salud turned 40 earlier this month, and has turned much of his attention to coaching. Though he owns a promotions business and works part-time for a friend who is a construction contractor, Salud's passion is teaching youngsters to box.
"I spend a lot of time at the Evolution Boxing Club in Pearl City, helping out the fighters," he said. "Andy Ganigan and those guys helped me, so it's my duty to encourage and help the young generation."
Salud said he did not steer his own children -- Jordan, 17, and Jade, 13 -- toward the sport, though.
"I taught them how to protect themselves," he said. "But they have other interests."
Salud said he could see himself becoming a boxing promoter or manager, and is trying to get city officials to convert an empty building at Barbers Point into a gym.
He said he is gradually getting used to the idea that his career as a fighter is probably over.
"I love the boxing game," Salud said. "World champion is a great achievement, I traveled all over and got to see a lot, and I fulfilled my dreams. But I'm still an old warrior who sees the young bucks and want to show them what I have. Kevin Kelley came out of retirement to fight Barrera (last April) and got $300,000."
Salud is reminded Kelley also got knocked out in the fourth round.
"It's hard for me to see myself not being a fighter. I'm very competitive, and I've been boxing since 8 years old," he said. "But I feel lucky that all these years I've never been knocked out.
"They were all hard fights."