Bruno Escalante was in the fourth grade, but he didn’t look it. That’s what the second-grade Hawaiian bully thought too, figuring the 52-pound, 3-foot-10 Escalate an easy mark.
“I whooped his a--,” Escalante, now 25, said of his childhood challenger, two years his junior. “Because he was younger.”
Victor Ruiz — a Tijuana tough guy whose own youthful pugilistic talents got him expelled from middle school before finding employment in the professional ring — is two years younger, too. But this foe won’t likely be bested as easily.
“I see he has a lot of power,” Escalante said of Ruiz, against whom he’ll defend his steppingstone IBA 115-pound title this Friday in the main event from the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks. “It’s going to be explosive. Two power punchers will be going at it and I’m pretty excited about that.”
Escalante (12-1-1, six KOs), having just fought a little over a month ago in his training base of Redwood City, is coming off a first-round body-shot knockout of palooka Lorenzo Trejo. But Ruiz (12-2, nine KOs) isn’t all palooka.
The Mexican 23-year-old is a reckless swinger, an odd lefty fond of clocking his foe with sweeping roundhouse lefts and rights. He is a brave fighter too insolent to care what the opponent is capable of firing back.
Because of that quality, Ruiz has been knocked out once before. But that same quality makes him as dangerous as the streets from which he hails.
“I’m going to attack him where he’s weak, and away from whatever he’s good at,” Escalante said. “From the beginning, I’ve always wanted to challenge myself.”
Challenge himself Escalante did after that initial fistfighting encounter 16 years ago, sometimes starting street skirmishes and sometimes not.
“I’m a troublemaker myself, before boxing,” Escalante said. “But once I started boxing, it changed my perspective for fighting.”
That perspective changed his freshman year of high school when Escalante stumbled into a gym looking to forge a career in basketball. But it was a drumming noise he heard. The noise a speed bag makes — one unfamiliar, yet one sweeter than the dribble of an inflated ball off hardwood — that is what moved Escalante to test himself in the ring.
“When I’m in the ring ... I’m calm and collected, but I’m very focused,” he said. “I always think, ‘This guy’s trying to beat me, he’s trying to kill me. I ain’t going to let that happen.’”