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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Salud realized dreams with world boxing title


By Kyle Sakamoto
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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JESUS SALUD

Local tie: Former professional boxer who grew up in Waipahu and Nanakuli; currently living in Nanakuli

Professional boxing career: 63-13 (38 knockouts) over 19 years

Pro debut: June 28, 1983; final fight April 27, 2002

Career highlights: Won World Boxing Association super bantamweight (122 pounds) title Dec. 11, 1989; beat Juan Jose Estrada via ninth-round disqualification in Inglewood, Calif. ... also won NABF super bantamweight (February 1989), IBC super bantamweight (June 1990) and WBO Asia-Pacific super bantamweight (February 1998) titles

What he's doing now: Working as a stevedore for McCabe Hamilton and Renny, Inc. ... trains boxers and MMA fighters at Kaka'ako Boxing Gym

Tidbits: Persuaded son Jordan to not get into boxing. Jordan is a rap artist and works in time shares at Ko Olina Resort & Marina. His album "The Kama'aina Classic" was nominated for best R&B and rap album at the 2008 Na Hoku Hanohano music awards

Quotable: "Something's got to give. It's brutal in there. I surprised myself I fought that long. Thinking back, it was crazy to fight that long."

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WHO'S YOUR TOP 50?

To celebrate 50 years of statehood, The Advertiser is running its list of the top 50 sports people/teams who helped change or shape the landscape in Hawai'i sports since 1959. Disagree with our choices? Vote for your own at http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com. The series started July 3 and ends Aug. 21.

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Jesus Salud threw and took punches with the best of them over a 19-year boxing career. Looking back, Salud is proud of his humble beginnings in Waipahu and Nanakuli, 63-13 (38 knockouts) career record and the World Boxing Association super bantamweight title he won in 1989.

Salud, 46, also feels it was "crazy" to fight as long as he did.

"Thank God I've been fighting for all these years and I can still talk like this. I'm still sharp," said Salud, who added he knows of veteran boxers who suffer from memory loss, stuttering and other effects from the punishing sport.

"Something's got to give. It's brutal in there. I surprised myself I fought that long. Thinking back, it was crazy to fight that long."

Salud's professional debut was June 28, 1983, and his final fight was April 27, 2002.

His career peaked when he won the WBA super bantamweight title from Juan Jose Estrada with a ninth-round disqualification on Dec. 11, 1989, in Inglewood, Calif.

"Being champion means you accomplished all your dreams. You try to be a better person because kids look up to you," Salud said. "Being a champion carries a whole lot of responsibility."

Salud, nicknamed "The Hawaiian Punch," didn't lose the title in the ring. Instead, Salud was stripped of the belt in 1990 for not defending against Luis Mendoza in Mendoza's hometown of Columbia.

"It was the right decision for me," Salud said. "I should have (eventually) lost it in the ring. I was stripped. Them taking away the title, took away money. I had a (TV) deal with HBO."

Salud also won the NABF super bantamweight (February 1989), IBC super bantamweight (June 1990) and WBO Asia-Pacific super bantamweight (February 1998) titles.

Throughout his career, Salud was neither flashy nor brash in a sport where self-promotion not necessarily talent can lead to a quick rise to the top. Salud just efficiently went about his business.

"We're just proud he was able to discipline himself and be humble," said son Jordan Salud. "He was able to take himself far in the sport. Boxing is kind of barbaric and guys tend to get cocky and conceited, but he was always humble."

THE BEGINNING

Salud's road to success started with his family's decision to move from Ilocos Sur, Philippines, to Waipahu in 1970. He often got picked on in school because he didn't speak English.

"A lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifices," said Salud on his career success. "I started from the very bottom."

At age 8, Salud went to the Waipahu Recreation Center to train under Al Silva. Even when Salud moved to Nanakuli two years later, he still caught the bus to Waipahu to work with Silva.

"(Salud) told me 'I want you to make me a champion,' " Silva said. "I was shocked. He said, "'I don't want to train under any Tom, Dick and Harry.'"

Salud, who said he loves to train, often returned home late at night.

"He came down to the gym even on days when it rained; when nobody was around, " Silva said. "From that time on I took a liking to the youngster. He knew what he wanted."

Salud still refers to his former trainer as "Mr. Silva."

"He wasn't just a trainer, he was a father figure to me," Salud said. "He taught me about life and being humble and responsible."

Silva, now 92, still trains fighters in Waipahu.

Silva also trained Salud's idols, Andy Ganigan and Ben Villaflor, both of whom held prestigious boxing titles.

Villaflor (1999), Ganigan (2000) and Salud (2003) all are members of the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame.

In 1989, Salud moved to San Diego in search of better boxing competition.

HANGING 'EM UP

Salud's professional boxing career lasted 550 rounds with 37 of his bouts in Hawai'i and another 24 in California. The 5-foot-6 Salud fought mostly between 122 and 124 pounds.

Salud lost four of his final five bouts, with his career finale being a loss via 10-round decision against William Abelyan on April 27, 2002, in Oklahoma City.

After that fight, Salud and Jordan, 17 at the time, decided the time had come to retire.

"It was tough because I loved what I was doing," Salud said. "My son and I had a long talk and he said I have nothing to prove, but he didn't understand it was a passion for me. He made me think twice. When I was younger I could avoid punches; when I got older, I couldn't avoid punches as fast."

Added Jordan: "When you're that passionate about something, how do you walk away when you've been doing it since you were 7 years old? He sought advice from my sister (Jade Salud) and I. We told him he proved what he had to prove. He didn't have to prove anything else to us. That kind of gave him the green light to hang 'em up and kick back."

WHAT'S HE UP TO?

Salud still lives in Nanakuli and works as a stevedore for McCabe Hamilton and Renny, Inc.

But he hasn't lost his passion for fighting.

Salud trains boxers and mixed martial arts fighters at Kaka'ako Boxing Gym and did the same previously at Kalakaua Boxing Gym.

Salud only teaches the striking aspect of MMA.

"Stand up, the striking part, that's the only part I teach. I'm not a grappler," he said.

Salud has trained Leland Chapman, son of Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman, and Dustin Kimura, an up-and-coming 19-year-old MMA fighter.

"I love to work with kids," Salud said. "My reward is watching them perform and getting them off the streets."