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Bruno Escalante Fills up the Confidence Tank


By Gabriel Montoya

The first time I saw super flyweight Bruno “The Aloha Kid” Escalante, 9-1-1 (5), he was going the distance with Rigoberto Casillas and winning handily. The venue was the Fox Theater in Escalante’s adopted hometown of Redwood City, CA in NorCal’s Bay Area. Escalante hails from Cebu City, Philippines but moved to Hawaii when he was eight years old. Just by looking at him, it’s clear he is a natural athlete. Quick, agile feet and fast hands but there was something lacking that night, a cohesion that would take the moving parts of his boxer-puncher style and bring it together.

As it turns out, Escalante, who fights Joseph Rios, 13-8-2 (4), this Saturday at Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, CA, was quite specifically missing confidence in his engine.

Enter Victor Conte, former bassist for Tower of Power/nutrition expert/“BALCO mastermind”-turned-anti-doping activist and founder of SNAC Systems (Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning, a supplement company based in San Carlos, CA.). Conte’s offices are just down the street from Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel’s Undisputed Boxing Gym.
It is here that Conte, Schwartz and Bazzel are redefining how the modern athlete trains using hypoxia training methods tailored to a boxer’s needs. Nonito Donaire, Edwin Rodriguez, Erick De Leon, Amir Khan, Brandon Gonzalez, Stan Martyniouk, Alfredo Angulo and a growing number of fighters are coming up to San Carlos and Undisputed to try out the SNAC Boxing Team’s latest wrinkles in strength and conditioning. From sprint training with Remi Korchemny in the morning, hypoxic boxing training using a “Curve” non-motorized treadmill or rapid recovery inside a $20,000 hyperbaric chamber (Conte’s latest toy), Escalante is getting his fighting ride pimped.
“It’s like sprinting up a hill,” smiled Escalante after a session on “The Curve.” “It’s really hard work.”
Check out “The Curve” video from
…and the hyperbaric chamber:
A fighter goes only as far as his conditioning takes him. If he can’t recover his energy and wind after intense flurries of action inside or between rounds, he is dead in the water. More energy and better recovery adds up to a lot of things, not the least of which is confidence, that intangible fuel that takes a fighter to the next level of his peak abilities.
“I think [hypoxic training] builds a lot of confidence,” said Escalante. “When you have that 80% oxygen, you get tired. I feel it is harder than sparring actually. You don’t have as much air to breathe, so it gives me confidence because I know that in that minute break between rounds, I can recover fully.”
Following the Casillas win, Escalante went from simply sprinting with Korchemny to fully utilizing the hypoxic training which included the treadmill, working the heavy bag and mitt work all while wearing a mask attached by a long hose to a Hypoxico “hypoxicator,” simulating high altitude. With a target of 80% blood/oxygen saturation while the athlete is working at peak exertion over a series of interval sprints, the goal is not to take the fighter to the highest altitude possible. It’s taking him to an altitude that helps him reach peak exertion while at the 80% goal. It’s about tailoring the workout to the athlete instead of the old-school mentality that one exercise fits all.
In the end, all the science and training adds up to an athlete with confidence in his engine, the ability to accelerate and then recover to do it all over again deep into a fight.
“Right now it is easier for me to recover. We’ve been doing this; Mike Bazzel, we’ve been doing this almost two months out from the fight. We’ve been doing it a lot. And the recovery is better. I sparred 10 rounds yesterday and it felt easy. Its good,” said Escalante.
Escalante said the difference in his conditioning was felt immediately.
“It was great because as soon as I did the hypoxic training with Mike Bazzel, I got confidence that when I get tired, I know I could recover.  And so in a fight, when I hurt somebody, I know if I am going to attack them, I know I will recover quick,” he said.
Escalante’s quiet confidence has grown even more since the training began. After Casillas, he blew out his next two opponents in the second and first rounds with explosive one-punch stops.
“Just got lucky in a way that I landed the straight left and scored a knockout in those fights,” smiled Escalante, who has yet to be able to take his new V-12 engine out for a long drive into an eight-round fight.
“Before, I kind of worried ‘How can I…?’ You know, my first eight-round fights, I had doubts,” he admitted. “It’s hard to go eight rounds because I never experienced it before. But now? I am fighting eight but preparing as fighting 10 or 12. Because of the training we have here, the hypoxic training, sprinting with Remi Korchemny, all the training with Mike Bazzel - he does strength and conditioning - it’s really giving me confidence to finish whatever rounds are scheduled.”
Escalante is managed by Herb Stone, who is keeping “The Aloha Kid” fighting at a steady clip.
“[Stone]’s been keeping me busy. I’ve been fighting four fights in three months and I am very happy with him. It’s up to him what is his plan. Whatever he puts in front of me, I am going to show and fight,” said Escalante, who added that he liked the busy schedule. With his training, it’s easy to keep momentum going with steady work.
“I think it’s great because all my career since amateurs, I haven’t really fought every two months. I fight every six months. Or if I go to the National Championships, I fight four times for the championships and then six months…it’s a really great experience fighting back-to-back.”
With the SNAC Boxing Team behind him, Escalante is in a rare and exciting place of opportunity. He gets to try out the latest techniques from one of the top minds in sports science while helping to build the fighting reputation of Schwartz, Bazzel and the Undisputed Boxing Gym. Not bad for a Filipino kid growing up in Hawaii with basketball dreams that turned into a search for fistic glory.
“Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel, they teach me new moves, new techniques every day. We watch all the tapes of old fighters like [Marvelous Marvin] Hagler, Pernell Whitaker, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd [Mayweather] and just take some parts of their style and put it into my arsenal. It’s awesome,” said Bruno, all smiles and gratitude at his fortune. “I feel like I am back to starting boxing in that I am learning what they tell me and getting better each time.”
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.

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