Tuesday, September 19|
Viloria overcomes weather and seeks gold
SYDNEY, Australia -- Hard-hitting teenage American
light-flyweight Brian Viloria had to quit the tropical charms
and surf beaches of Hawaii for the icy cold of Michigan to keep
alive his dream of Olympic Games glory.
Viloria, the first Hawaiian boxer named to a U.S. Olympic
team for 44 years, found he quickly ran out of opponents
willing to fight him on his home island.
In 1998 he switched to the U.S. Olympic Education Center in
Marquette, Mich., where teammates Clarence Vinson,
David Jackson and Jermain Taylor also work out under veteran
trainer Al Mitchell, the 1996 U.S. Olympic coach.
"It was so cold I couldn't believe it," said Viloria, who
had never previously seen snow. Now he has adjusted and is
combining majoring in broadcasting at Northern Michigan
University with his boxing career.
"I asked myself why I was doing it, but now I'm here at the
Olympics I know why," he said. "You have to make sacrifices to
make your dreams come true.
"There has been a lot of support for me from Hawaii but
there just wasn't any competition for me there -- no one to box
Viloria became a boxer at the age of nine after he found
himself being bullied by his younger, but bigger, brother
Gaylord -- who is now a 250-pound American football player and more
than twice Brian's size.
"My brother took all my food, and my toys, so my father
told me I should learn how to defend myself," the 106-pound Viloria
Viloria says he toughened his fists by punching banana
trees "which aren't really hard" and has modelled himself on
Michael Carbajal, the American who took silver in the division
at the 1988 Games in Seoul.
Viloria may be only 19, but he is the veteran of the
American team when it comes to experience with 33 international
bouts under his belt -- and wins in all but five of them.
He beat highly rated Cuban Maikro Romero to win the gold
medal at last year's world championships and the pair are again
the favorites in boxing's lightest division, along with Puerto
Rican Ivan Calderon, Mexican Liborio Romero and Spaniard Rafael
The Cuban Romero, against whom he is 1-1, is probably the
biggest danger to Viloria's hopes of Olympic gold and a
lucrative future professional career.
"He's real good and real experienced," Viloria said. "The
first time I fought him at the 1998 Goodwill Games I didn't
have a lot of experience but now I'm up to par. If I can have
the same focus as in the world championships then I can do it
Viloria, a fast-handed and quick-witted fighter who says he
feels very much at home in sunny Sydney, say he can do whatever
it takes to win -- regardless of how the draw works out.
"My style depends on my opponent's style," he said. "If it
takes boxing I can box, but if I need to slug I can do that
He says he is not too concerned about being the gold medal
"It plays on my mind a lot, but I use it as a motivating
factor, something that makes me run that extra mile," he said.
"I can't slacken off because I am the number one in the
world. I have to keep my focus -- do the things I've been