In the midst of his first eight-round prize fight nearly 10 months ago, Bruno Escalante began to doubt.
The prospect had sparred countless rounds with Bay Area boxer Nonito Donaire, one of the best prizefighters in the world, but even that couldn’t keep his first pro loss — nor the doubt — at bay.
“I’m a warrior. I learned that even when I’m hurt, I could come back and fight strong,” Escalante, 24, said of the loss. “So that’s one thing I know about myself. I’m a fighter.”
And a fighter Escalante (6-1-1, 3 KOs) will be this Friday as he headlines at the Fox Theater in Redwood City against Mexican journeyman Rigoberto Casillas (8-9-1, six KOs) — a six-time loser of his last seven bouts.
It will be Escalante’s second eight-rounder fight.
But the Philippine-born southpaw wasn’t always Donaire’s pupil.
“I was so broke,” Escalante said of leaving his Hawaii home two weeks after his 21st birthday and relocating to Los Angeles. Money earned from painting cars and delivering pizzas, $150 in all, was all he had.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life,’” he said.
Then the phone rang. It was Donaire asking if Escalante was serious about his career. He said he was.
“Three days later, I’m here in San Francisco,” Escalante laughed, “living with him in San Mateo.”
But as Donaire’s stardom blossomed, the pound-for-pound pugilist could no longer balance his own career and that of the young Escalante. A demoralizing return to Hawaii seemed inevitable. Then boxing trainers Brian Schwartz and Michael Bazzel took over.
“I wasn’t really paying too much attention to him in the beginning because he was Nonito’s guy,” Schwartz said. “But we clicked automatically. I think the sky is the limit for him.”
It’s lofty praise for the 5-foot-2 bantamweight and second-youngest of 10 siblings.
“My parents are hardworking people, and so are all of my siblings,” Escalante said. “They would help raise me. I feel like this is my chance to thank them.”
Likewise fighting on the card will be San Francisco prospect Jonathan Chicas (8-1, four KOs).