If there were any doubts about the fact that three-time, two division world champion Brian Viloria deserves to be considered one of the great fighters in the lower weight divisions, surely that legacy was sealed when the WBO flyweight champion scored a smashing 10th round TKO victory over hard-hitting Mexican WBA champion Hernan "Tyson" Marquez at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Manila Time.
It was Viloria's fourth consecutive win over highly touted flyweights and he accomplished the victories in rousing fashion.
The rebirth of the champion and his quest for glory was sparked by a painful 12th round TKO loss of his IBF light flyweight title which he had captured with a spectacular 11th round knockout over highly-touted Mexican Ulises Solis at the Araneta Coliseum on April 19, 2009 and successfully defended with a twelve-round unanimous decision over rugged Jesus Iribe of Mexico.
The loss of Viloria's title to Panama's Carlos Tamara at the Cuneta Astrodome was a heartbreaker as he was winning fairly handily before he suddenly felt exhausted and as Tamara threw a flurry of punches and trapped Brian on the ropes, international referee Bruce McTavish had no choice but to call a halt with just 1 minute and 15 seconds remaining in the fight with Viloria not punching back.
Viloria collapsed in his dressing room from sheer exhaustion and had to be rushed to the Makati Medical Center where doctors gave him a clean bill of health and said he could return to the ring after a couple of months rest.
Viloria talked things over with his charming wife-to-be at that time, Erika Navarro, a nurse, his manager Gary Gittelsohn and longtime trainer and friend Ruben Gomez.
The consensus was Viloria was forced to starve himself as he struggled to make the 108 pound limit and that had taken its toll. The decision was reached to move up to flyweight.
His first test at 112 pounds was against rugged Mexican Omar Soto who gave Viloria a hard time before he escaped with a ten-round split decision on July 10, 2010 after which he took on Thailand's Liempetch Sor Veerapol and won by a 7th round TKO on November 5, 2010 which helped boost Viloria's confidence even as he began to feel comfortable fighting as a flyweight.
Then came the first big test and the start of Viloria's determined quest for recognition when his manager Gary Gittelsohn who considers Viloria "a son" was forced to dig deep into his pockets to pay Julio Cesar "Pingo" Miranda more money than he had ever earned before, to face Viloria at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii as Viloria wanted to revive boxing in Hawaii where he had spent many of his years as a young man.
Viloria stunned Miranda as well as fight fans when he dropped the Mexican in the very first round before going on to win a comfortable unanimous decision. Next up was a title defense against another Mexican, light flyweight champion Giovanni Segura who moved up to flyweight and was recognized as the mandatory challenger.
Segura's claim to fame was that he had twice stopped previously undefeated Puerto Rican Ivan Calderon with a dominating performance which in turn earned Segura the No. 9 spot in the prestigious Ring Magazine's pound-for-pound rankings.
Nobody gave Viloria a chance against Segura except his manager, this reporter and his trainers led by Gomez and of course his wife Erika.
Gittelsohn recalls, "We stood alone in a very big dark world when people had turned their backs on Brian. But you know it's the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. People get on and off the bandwagon very quickly but we know that Brian needs big fights to get motivated. Unfortunately we learned that the hard way but Brian needs to be in fights where people don't give him a chance. He was not given a chance against Segura, who was on everyone's pound-for-pound list and Brian took him to school."
It wasn't even close with Viloria putting on a classic display of skill and punching power just two weeks before Christmas at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
It was now payback time as he faced mandatory challenger Omar Nino Romero who had beaten him once to win a controversial decision and grab his light flyweight title and a rematch which ended in an even more controversial draw.
That wasn't the end of the controversy as Omar Nino Romero tested positive for a banned substance in a post-fight medical test but instead of stripping him of the title and proclaiming Viloria the winner, the WBC declared the fight a "no contest" with the title vacant.
Revenge was on the mind of Viloria when they met at the Ynares Center which proved to be Viloria's lucky hunting ground on May 13, 2012.
Viloria scored a rousing 9th-round TKO over the former two-time light flyweight champion when American referee Michael Ortega called a halt with Romero groggy against the ropes near his own corner following a barrage of vicious blows from Viloria. At the time of the stoppage all three judges had Viloria comfortably ahead with Americans Carlos Ortiz and Glen Feldman having the champion ahead 79-72 and 80-70 respectively while Filipino judge Atty. Danrex Tapdasan had Viloria ahead 80-71.
To Brian Viloria his painful losses were "all learning experiences that led up to this point (against Romero) and helped me garner this win." He confessed that "the first couple of times I lost it gave me a doubt about my confidence and my style as a fighter and when I took that off it reminded me that I have all the tools and if you use them, it will work out for you."
His message to himself was "don't be gun shy and use it and be the best Brian Viloria you can be. That's all it took today." Obviously comfortable at 112 pounds Viloria looked back at all that he had gone through the past few years and reminded himself that "all this happened because I put in all the work. With all the hard work. The times we woke up at 4:00 a.m. to hit the mountains, without all of that, this wouldn't happen."
Following the win over Romero, Viloria recalled a conversation he had with Yahoo Philippines. He said "I told you when I first won the title from 'Pingo' Miranda that I want to stay as a champion as long as I can and I said then I'll be a world champion for a while because I know what it takes and have learned a lot."
Viloria put the lessons learned into excellent use against "Tyson" Marquez whose nickname was a reflection of how much he was respected for his punching power.
Two days before the showdown with Marquez, Viloria told us he planned "to let my hands go" which is exactly what he did in the opening round against Marquez when he dropped the Mexican forcing him to back off in the succeeding rounds which Viloria won handily.
In the fifth round Marquez, urged by trainer Robert Garcia to go after Viloria, appeared to hurt the Filipino as Viloria tried to fend off a flurry of punches when Marquez trapped him on the ropes.
Even Manny Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza was worried that Marquez was catching Viloria with some thunderous shots and would knock him out even as Filipino trainer "Buboy" Fernandez rushed from his seat to give Viloria's corner some advice.
Typical of the courageous Filipino, Viloria suddenly exploded with a cracking left hook and a right to the side of Marquez' head and sent the Mexican sprawling on the canvas.
As Marquez tried desperately to turn the fight around and pressed the action in round ten, Viloria nailed Marquez with a vicious left hook followed by a devastating right to the side of the head that dropped Marquez flat on his back but showing the warrior instinct Mexicans are known for, he beat the count.
It was not to be as Viloria pounced on the groggy Mexican and ripped into him with a barrage of punches to the head that forced Garcia to jump in and wave the towel as a sign of surrender, forcing referee David Mendoza to call the fight off at 1:01 of round ten.
On the week of the fight Viloria told us "I just want to be known as one of the top fighters in my generation and maybe in the eyes of the Filipinos and all the fight fans. I just want to make my mark before I take a bow."
With the smashing win over Marquez, Brian Viloria certainly has made his mark and has surely sealed his legacy.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.
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