Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Brian Viloria: the Natural

The kleg lights’ white heat was on and the cameras zoomed towards his cool and unperturbed face. A dozen more digicams of the personal kind were thrust in his way and the muzak droned in the background like a headache that refused to go away. As he made his way onto the floor, the shrieks got louder and the tall lanky man in his way who has been the show for years on end suddenly flashed a toothy grin and said, “Welcome to Eat Bulaga, Champ.”

After defeating Juan Antonio “El Jaguar” Aguirre, WBC Champ Brian Viloria quietly slipped into Manila as part of Solar Sports’ promotions of this highly-touted Fil-Am boxer. As much as Brian loves adobo, Jollibee, and tapsilog, he’s still perceived to be as American as apple pie, the NFL, and Limp Bizkit. Solar COO Peter Chanliong and VP for Sports Marketing Jude Turcuato figured that it would be a good for Brian to do the noon time and talk show circuit and go about town so that Filipinos would see him, recognize him, get to know him, and adopt him as one of their own (and hopefully in the vein of the Pacman). With the popularity of boxing and our new legion of ring gladiators at an all-time high, Brian who is an actual world champion is also at the forefront although left of center from the National Fist out of Gen San who is clearly in the man right now. He recognizes his celebrity but doesn’t revel in it. He’s more at home in front of a Playstation console and listening to music while lying down in bed. But he knows his duties and responsibilities and his heritage. “I am a product of both America and the Philippines,” he says to clarify any attempts to swing his national loyalties. “America raised me and has been good to my family, but my culture, heritage, and roots are from the Philippines.”

While walking around the tiangge capital of Manila (Greenhills), dozens of young students from nearby Xavier and ICA recognized him and greeted him. The people we came across had to do a double take and rub their eyes if it was truly Brian Viloria right in front of them: all 5’4” of him. “Nice going, champ,” said one man in a barong tagalong as he pumped Brian’s powerful fists. Another had her fist autographed and swore she would was her hand for the rest of the day. A motorcycle cop asked if Brian needed police escort (the Hawaiian Punch politely declined).

The Eat Bulaga stint for all its slapstick humor and penchant for fun and games hardly worried Solar’s executives. Brian has always had this ability to quickly adapt to sudden changes; a trait he’s learned in the ring. He joined the regular Bulagaan: sang, danced, clowned about, and handled himself at the mike quite well.

A day later at Mario’s in Timog, members of congress, sports personalities and media folks who were minding their own dinners were surprised to see that the young man tickling the keys was none other than the WBC Light Flyweight Champ himself!

During Pacman’s second go-around with El Terrible, Brian helped provide ringside commentary that was every bit as incisive and revealing showing a young man with many talents outside his chosen profession.

The Northern Michigan University Communications and Film student (he set aside his studies for his pro boxing career) who was the captain of his high school tennis team and who plays 14 different musical instruments would love nothing more than a career behind the cameras once he hangs up his gloves, but for now, he has set his sights on being a great boxer.

At 19-0, Viloria will put his title on the line for the second time this coming Friday (August 11) against Guadalajara-native Omar Nino Romero (23-2-1) who is currently in the midst of a four-win skein. The match will be Viloria’s first as the main event of his career when the Thursday Fight Night at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada gets underway. Should Brian successfully defend his title, he hopes to go up against Mexican icon Jorge Arce in what he describes will be a “mega-fight” (unless Arce moves up a weight class). But what could possibly happen before that is a confrontation with Thai boxer Wandee Singwancha who recently beat our very own Juanito Rubillar in a controversial decision.

But for now, it’s Viloria versus Romero. Brian has shown his devastating power especially in his savage knockouts of Sheldon Wile, Antonio Perez-Ontiveros, Ruben Contreras, and Eric Ortiz. His injured hand has healed. He’s game and excited about hitting the ring something that he took to “like a duck to water” as he described his love for the sweet science.

The kleg lights will burn and the cameras will roll this Friday as they will long after his career in boxing is over (thanks to his many natural and prodigious talents). When Brian Viloria comes home, welcome him back. It’s always nice to be treated to someone of such rare form.

The Viloria-Romero fight will be shown over Solar Sports/RPN9 Friday, August 11, 2006 at 10a.m.

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