Former champ Brian Viloria enjoying life as a trainer
Four-time, 2-division World champion Brian “Hawaiian Punch” Viloria is enjoying the next chapter of his life, following his Hall of Fame-caliber boxing career, as an elite trainer based at Brickhouse Boxing Club in North Hollywood, California.
Shortly after his last fight, back in 2018, Viloria decided to start working as a trainer at Wild Card West (now Churchill Gym in Santa Monica, CA), where he started developing his trainer skills working in the same gym at Freddie Roach, Roberto Garcia, and Joe Goossen.
“I was able to pick-and-choose from those coaches to create my own style,” Viloria explained. “I knew that I wanted to be a trainer because I had a lot of knowledge and experience that I could pass along to the next generation of fighters. I took off the gloves and put on the mitts. I slowly built up my skills at Wild Card West with Julian Chua (head trainer of 43-0 Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez).
“It was an easy transition for me. It does take time to breakdown a fighter to find out how they like to receive information because everybody is different. Some like to read books, others like watching, They need to have fun, too. I want them to love the experience and craft.”
How Viloria ended up at Brickhouse was a little unusual and, of course, the pandemic played a significant role in that respect. Prior to the pandemic, Brian had learned that “Zurdo” and his manager, David Shu, were going to open up a gym.
“They asked if I was interested in moving to Las Vegas,” Viloria remembered. “And then the pandemic came. Two years later, in 2021, David called me saying they had found a spot in North Hollywood. It was a lot closer for me than Santa Monica. I only live 8 to 10 minutes away from the gym (Brickhouse).
“I still train one or two fighters at Churchill. My mainstay, though, is Brickhouse. I’m so close I can go home and take a nap between training sessions. I wanted to create a brand from scratch alongside Julian to hone my skills as a trainer. I like communicating with people.
“It’s a collaborative effort at Brickhouse, no disconnects. All the trainers communicate between themselves. Just because I won four world titles doesn’t outweigh the other coaches. We are a coaching staff at Brickhouse, where everybody’s input goes into making the consensus on fighters’ decisions.
“The biggest thing is we’re creating space at Brickhouse. We all check out egos outside the doors. It isn’t about the trainers; it’s all about fighters learning more. It’s about fighters not who’s at the helm of the coaches. I love working on the coaching staff here. We are all making a name for ourselves as trainers by being on the Brickhouse staff.”
Viloria trains Cem “Champ” Kelic (15-1, 10 KOs) and Carlos Nava (6-0, 3 KOs), both fighters are in the 3 Point Management (3PM) stable, which also manages “Zurdo,” the former World Super Middleweight Champion, and today a top-ranked World light heavyweight contender.
Turkish super middleweight Kelic headlines a March 17th card against Andrew Hernandez (21-8-2, 9 KOs) in an 8-round bout at Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello, California. The 27-year-old Kelic is living the American Dream having moved from Germany to the United States to enhance his pro boxing career.
“He has great power and plenty of gas in the tank,” Viloria noted. “He just needs to work on his defense instead of sitting in the pocket throwing punches and getting hit too much.”
Nava, a 23-year-old lightweight prospect from Pasadena, Texas, was the 2014 USA Olympic National Champion. He recently had a 4-week training camp at Brickhouse for, among several reasons, to get top notch sparring he doesn’t have at home.
“Carlos has a lot of amateur experience,” Viloria remarked. “He has great length and a good eye in terms of defensive awareness. He’s still in the style that doesn’t sit on punches like pros. I didn’t have enough time with him at camp to create a full style.”
Viloria retired as a boxer with a 38-6 (23 KOs) pro record, after he was 230-8 as an amateur, including being a member of the 2000 USA Olympic Boxing Team. He was undisputed World junior flyweight champion twice, as well as a 2-time World flyweight titlist.
“I’ve concluded that this (as a trainer) is the next chapter of my life,” Viloria commented. “It’s hard for athletes like me to stop boxing. It’s good to be a champion and then it’s over. I started boxing when I was five and it becomes your identity. This is what we do. Some may turn to drugs or be depressed, and that’s why a lot of fighters don’t know when to hang up their gloves. I knew when it was time to hang up my gloves. I didn’t have the same fire in my last couple of fights. I feel like I was going through the motions. No emotion!
“I had been helping train fighters in the gym when I was still fighting. Because I was world champion myself, my ultimate goal is to mold a kid someday to be world champion. I’m very excited about this part of my life.”
“Hawaiian Punch” is enjoying the journey to the fullest.