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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Escalante Jr. out to blaze own trail

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's next big thing in boxing could again come in a flyweight package.

Bruno Escalante Jr. of Waimānalo will make his professional boxing debut on Saturday in Las Vegas. He will fight Japan's Takashi Okada on the undercard of the Latin Fury/Pinoy Power card at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"It's pretty exciting," said Escalante, 20. "You get a little nervous before every fight but this one even more because it's my first pro fight."

Escalante was originally scheduled to face a Mexican boxer in a flyweight (112 pounds) bout, but that opponent dropped out this week.

Okada, who has a 1-0 record, was named as a replacement just this week. The bout is scheduled for four rounds.

"It's really short notice, so I don't know what to expect," Escalante said. "I was thinking it was going to be the Mexican guy all this time, but they just told me this week he couldn't make the weight."

Not that it matters much to Escalante.

"I just want to fight," he said.

Escalante was one of Hawai'i's most decorated amateur boxers of the last decade. He won several national and international titles, and nearly qualified to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics (he placed third in the trials).

He turned professional last month at the urging of Filipino champion Nonito Donaire.

"I was planning to turn pro (in 2010), but Nonito called me up last year and said when I was ready to turn pro he could help me out," Escalante said.

Escalante now trains with Donaire at the Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, Calif.

"I've been sparring with (Donaire) and his sparring partners, so it's good training," Escalante said.

Donaire will fight for the IBA super flyweight world championship in one of the main bouts of Saturday's card.

Nine years ago, Waipahu's Brian Viloria made his professional boxing debut as a flyweight. Viloria eventually became a two-time light flyweight world champion.

Escalante said he is aware of the trail blazed by Viloria.

"We're about the same size, and he made it to the top," Escalante said. "I want to be known as a world champion like him someday."

Saturday's card will be televised through Oceanic pay-per-view, although Escalante's bout is not scheduled for the broadcast (it could be aired as a "filler" if other bouts end early).