Peninsula pugilist Escalante looks to take next step in career 

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At one point, Bruno Escalante Jr. wanted to become the first Filipino-born athlete to make the NBA.

"All Filipino [boys] dream of that," Escalante said. "That was my dream."

Escalante has adjusted his goals a bit, but they're only slightly less daunting. The Belmont resident wants to follow in the footsteps of his idols — Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire — and become a world-class boxing champion.

The 24-year-old Escalante (8-1-1, 4 KOs), a super flyweight, faces Manuel Galaviz (7-10, 4 KOs) of Sonora, Mexico, in the co-main attraction bout at the Fox Theater in Redwood City on Friday. While some boxers fight for the money and all the potential fame that come with success, Escalante fights for a greater purpose — his family.

"I just want my family to be proud of me," said Escalante, the youngest of nine children. "It's going to be another exciting fight. I can't tell you how the result is going to go — you're going to have to be there."

Like most up-and-coming pugilists, Escalante boxes often, as this will be his third fight of the year. Escalante's lone defeat came last year courtesy of Matthew Villanueva, who won the eight-round bout via unanimous decision. Although the undefeated Villanueva was a clear-cut winner, Escalante said he hopes to get a rematch.

"What I learned from that fight is I can never doubt myself ever again," Escalante said. "I'm going to face him again in the future, and it's going to be a different result."

Despite being just 5-foot-2, Escalante has never let his height prevent him from dreaming big on the athletic stage. Escalante was 8 and living in Hawaii when he first took up boxing. It was actually a bit of serendipitous circumstances, as Escalante was trying out for his school's basketball team when he heard a couple of students punching speed bags on the second floor.

"I was 4-10 and 114 pounds, and the second I saw those speed bags, I thought to myself that I might be more successful at boxing than basketball," he said.

What Escalante lacks in height he more than makes up for with tremendous footspeed, a tough chin and a deft ability to avoid hard blows. Escalante trains at Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, where he still occasionally spars with Donaire. Led by trainers Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel, Escalante feels he's improving with each punch.

"My trainers are teaching me to become a better fighter every day," Escalante said. "I believe in them, my abilities, my conditioning. I stay at the gym every day — as boxers, it's what we do."

Fox Theater Fights

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Fox Theater, Redwood City

TICKETS: Priced at $35, $45, $50 and $60

INFO: For more info or to purchase tickets, visit www.foxrwc.com or www.pacopresentsboxing.com or call Undisputed Boxing Gym (650) 631-3781 or B Street Boxing Gym (650) 342-7408

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