Hawaii boxing legends remember 'The Greatest of All Time' Muhammad Ali

Hawaii boxing legends remember 'The Greatest of All Time' Muhammad Ali
Benjamin Villaflor (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Benjamin Villaflor (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Muhammad Ali was arguably boxing's most celebrated athlete and many of Hawaii's boxing legends are remembering him as the greatest to ever do it.

"He was so confident in himself and I was looking up to him like that," said World Champion Boxer Jesus Salud, also known as The Hawaiian Punch.

Salud recalls his first encounter with the legend himself in San Diego, CA.

"It was just nice talking to him a little bit and he was giving advice and he would say keep training, train hard," Salud said.

The 5-foot-6 Salud lasted 550 rounds in his professional boxing career, with 37 of his bouts in Hawai'i and another 24 in California.

News of the Ali's death hit close to home for him. Salud says the three-time heavyweight champ inspired him both in and out of the ring.

"He knows how to get to your head," said Salud. "He knows how to mess you up in the head and take you out of your fight game."

Benjamin Villaflor, pro Hawaii boxer turned Senate Sergeant at Arms, was also saddened by Ali's passing.

"Without him, I think boxing would have been nothing," said Villaflor.

Villaflor won the WBA Junior Lightweight Championship in 1972. At the age of 19, he was the second youngest boxer to win a world boxing title.

Muhammad Ali was his biggest inspiration.

"When I was 12 years old, I was looking at LIFE magazine and he was on the cover," said Villaflor. "So I saw him standing and I said 'Wow who knows this might be me one day.'"

Both Villaflor and Salud are members of the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame.

Even long after their boxing careers, the two continue to celebrate Ali not only for his remarkable athletic skills, but for his courage to challenge the status quo.

"To me, he was the greatest fighter of all time," said Salud. "Not only as a fighter, but he was a brilliant, smart man."

"When you think about the greatest, that would be Muhammad Ali," Villaflor said.

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