Brian Viloria / Clearly, mixed martial arts are becoming a mainstream part of the local culture. Go out on a weekend night and it’s guaranteed you’ll run into an Affliction or Tapout T-shirt being used as acceptable going-out wear. Heck, depending on the bar, you’ll even see a BJ Penn-RVCA top, the font in unmistakable blocky red and white letters.
While ultimate fighting (not to be confused with penultimate fighting), is currently afflicting the nation–and the tapout crowd in Hawaii–good old fashioned prize-fighting seems to have lost a bit of its luster. Perhaps “boxing” seems quaint next to obvious and direct words such as “ultimate” and “fighting.” In any case, local boy Brian Viloria’s return to the islands for his bout with Mexican challenger Jesus Iribe makes one slightly nostalgic for the days of colorful, cushioned, lace-up gloves. A local star like Viloria might be just what’s needed to re-invigorate the sport in the Islands and bring it back into the spotlight.
Here’s a primer on Our Local Hero:
Known–like his forebearer Jesus Salud back in the 1980s–as “The Hawaiian Punch,” the 28-year-old Filipino-American Viloria was born in Waipahu but raised in the Phillipines during his first five years. He returned to Hawaii and trained under beloved local coach Albert Silva. He won his first boxing match at the age of six. Yes, six. And he’s probably never had a toy taken away from him in the sandbox. Since turning pro, Viloria has won 25 matches, 15 by knock-out. His quick and deadliest hits to careless, unprotected skulls can be found on YouTube–a festival of clips devoted to his particularly exuberant brand of dropping his opponents. He’s lost two fights but both were by decision–no knock-outs for that guy. He was even a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. (He lost to France’s Brahim Asloum.) He is the current International Boxing Federation Junior Flyweight Champion, winning the title by knocking out Mexican Ulises Solis last April. Basically, this title means that contestants must weigh no more than 108 pounds. (The IBF is one of four organizations that sanctions world champion boxing matches.) At 5 feet and 4 inches, suffice it to say that Viloria probably doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him. If he was a runway model, we’d be making anorexia jokes.
And of course, in this age of the 140-character essay, he’s on Twitter. (http://[twitter.com])
Looks-wise, he is dark-skinned and wiry with a spiky side-comb and large, round Disney animal eyes. No massive, scary Con Air brawn like Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture. Viloria looks like just another local boy you’d see at Ala Moana Beach or nursing a Heinie at Pipeline on a Saturday night. That’s part of his appeal. He just looks like a sweet island kid that you don’t want to see get the crap beat out of him. How can you not root for the guy?
This is Viloria’s first fight in Hawaii since he knocked out Mexican Valentin Leon at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel way back in 2003. If the Filipino community can come out in force for Journey simply because of the nationality of its replacement lead singer, imagine what’s going to happen (or what should happen) at the end of the month at the Blaisdell Arena.
In the other corner is the challenger for Viloria’s title, Jesus “Azul” Iribe. The fighter from Mexico owns a quick jab but isn’t known for changing things up, has 15 wins (nine by knockout) and five losses.
Not to jinx the proceedings, but if you do the math on paper, it sounds like the evening might end a little early, no? Nobody supports their local boys quite like Hawaii so no doubt the match is gonna be packed.
Granted, some will probably bristle at the barbaric notion of pitting two humans against each other in bloody hand-to-hand combat. Still, gladiatorial combat has been with us through the ages and in the spirit of trying something different, turning off PBS and slumming with the pidgin-speakers might not be a bad thing.
Don’t worry. One boxing match won’t cause you to tailgate at Aloha Stadium and consume–perish the thought–fatty hibachi steaks and beer in an…eep!…aluminum can.
Brian Viloria KO Ulises Solis 11th rd
The action starts at about the 2:47 mark. Brian is the one in the green trunks. What’s up with that?