After getting knocked out a minute and a half into his professional boxing debut, cruiserweight Emilio Salas had to be wondering if a career change was in order.
But Salas shook off the embarrassment, and when he and now-fiancé Krystal Velez moved to Yonkers, New York, and he hooked up with trainer Jose Guzman, fortunes began to change.
Salas (5-1-1, 3 KOs) hasn’t lost a fight since and is now appearing in his first main event, a six-round cruiserweight main event against Detroit’s Demetrius Banks (6-0, 4 KOs) on Saturday May 14, in Banks’ backyard of the Masonic Temple in Downtown Detroit.
The pair will be headlining promoter Dmitriy Salita’s “Detroit Brawl” event that also features a six-round co-main event between undefeated bantamweight James Gordon Smith (9-0, 6 KOs) and Mexico’s Pablo Cupul (8-19, 5 KOs).
Tickets for “Detroit Brawl” are on sale now and are priced at $28, $38, $63, $93, $100 and $123. They are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com, by calling 800-745-3000, or by visiting the Masonic Temple box office.
“I have gotten a lot better with the trainers over here and I’ve had a lot more success,” admitted Salas. “I’m a southpaw with fast hands and I move around well and I punch hard with both hands. But one of my biggest things I have is heart. You have to want to fight and have heart and I do.”
Although he says he doesn’t know much about Banks, Salas says it’s ok because he prefers to figure an opponent out in the ring. “Normally once I get in there, I can tell what a fighter’s weaknesses are. He’s undefeated and I’ll be fighting in his hometown, but the people I have fought have almost all been undefeated and I’ve beaten them, so this is nothing different and I am not scared to fight him in Detroit. Most of my fights are in my opponent’s backyard. I really don’t know what to expect. I’m training hard for it and I hope for the best.”
Salas’s nickname in the ring is “El Jibaro,” which is slang for a country hick.
“They call me that because I was born and raised in area of Puerto Rico where there is lots of forest and not many houses and people are sort of poor. It means I’m from the jungle. I like to do real Puerto Rican things like working with animals and riding horses. I love Puerto Rico and I dedicate all my; fights to my family and to the people of Puerto Rico. My goal is to win a world title so that I can take it back to my hometown in PR and show that my first fight wasn’t the last one. I want to show them that whatever you want to do in life you can make it happen if you work hard enough.”
Salas caught promoter Dmitriy Salita’s eye early last year, fighting to a draw against one of Salita’s fighters, Ytalo Perea, a former Olympian.
“Emilio is very naturally talented,” said Salita. “He only had about 20 amateur fights and seven as a pro and he’s already a very good fighter. If he continues to develop and improve, he will soon become a force in the division.”