HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Running on fumes, Brian Viloria struggled in the 12th round of a fight he was winning on two cards. He was on his way to a successful title defense against Carlos Tamara on Jan. 23, 2010, when pure exhaustion got the better of him. Barely able to stand, Viloria winged left hooks and overhand rights in desperate attempts to end the fight. Tamara caught him with a body shot, though, and then landed unanswered shots, prompting the referee to stop the title fight.
As he sat in the hospital later that evening, it was then Viloria knew he had to make a change. He needed to do something to fulfill the vast promise he had shown coming out of the 2000 Olympics.
“When I sat in the hospital I saw my wife crying and was like ‘I gotta do something.’” Viloria told RingTV.com. “I gotta do something in my life to get myself to the level I need to be at. I didn’t drink anymore, stopped the alcohol and partying and started going to sleep as early as I can, getting enough rest. I did all that and it worked wonders for me.
“It was a lot of learning experiences for me. When I lost to [Edgar] Sosa and when I lost to Omar Nino, a lot of those fights I would beat myself more than my opponent beating me. I didn’t get myself prepared to my optimum ability. Doing my runs the way I’m supposed to, mountain runs. I didn’t condition myself the way I’m supposed to. Even though I’m skilled and talented, I need to put in the extra work to get myself prepared for fights like these. Especially fights of this level, the elite level. I’m fighting another champion, I need to pull out all the stops and prepare myself right.”
Viloria (31-3, 18 knockouts) will step up to that elite level on Saturday when he meets Mexican puncher Hernan “Tyson” Marquez (34-2, 25 KOs) in the first unification match in modern flyweight history (WealthTV, 9 p.m. ET). Though the fight between RING’s top two rated 112-pounders (Marquez is 1, Viloria 2) wasn’t picked up by a major network, Viloria is hoping their clash of fan-friendly styles will entice HBO or Showtime to pick up his next fight.
“It’s really frustrating, but you can’t really do anything. The other networks like GMA and WealthTV and Azteca TV took the initiative to pick up the fight,” said Viloria, 31. “For me, all I can do is put on great fights and later on down the line HBO and Showtime won’t ignore me anymore and put me on. It’s unfortunate, though.”
Coming out of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the boxing world had high hopes for Viloria. He had compiled a reported record of 230-8 as an amateur, including wins at the U.S. Championships, the National Golden Gloves and the World Amateur Boxing Championship. He lost in the first match at 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but defeated fellow Filipino-American Nonito Donaire in the trials to qualify.
The native of Waipahu, Hawaii, encountered some rocky moments in his professional career, losing to fighters he was expected to defeat. After his lifestyle change, he began to reel off wins in fights where he was the underdog. He knocked out power-punching Giovanni Segura in Dec. 2011 after defeating Julio Cesar Miranda a few months prior. In his last effort, he avenged his defeat to Omar Nino, setting up the biggest fight of his career against Marquez.
“I just refocused what I had to focus on with my training and knowing what comes first and my priorities. When I was a little younger [my priorities] weren’t in line the way I wanted them to be. That helped with the setbacks,” said Viloria. “But now I’ve refocused myself, rededicated myself and found the right people behind me. It reignited my career.
“With great wins over Segura and Miranda, I think the sky’s the limit for me. The key is to continue what I’m doing right now to get in shape and put on great fights. I’m a late bloomer, I tell people. I’m a late bloomer and it took me until now to fully realize my potential. But I’m glad it’s here.”
Viloria lay on his back at the famed Wild Card gym, drenched in sweat after a five-round sparring session with Ray Chacon. It was just his third day of sparring, with the fight originally slated for Sept. 29 and then in and out of limbo several times. During the spirited session, Viloria dialed in with straight rights and counter left hooks in preparation for the southpaw Marquez. Chacon, who also helped Abner Mares prepare for Anselmo Moreno and spars with Leo Santa Cruz, was impressed.
“Viloria’s a good boxer, his left hand is strong and he has a slick right hand,” said Chacon (4-5, 0 KOs). “I feel like he’s gonna be a problem for Marquez coming up. He can do both – he can brawl when he wants to and he can box really well.
“The straight right hand is a key and his counter left hook is going to be perfect. Once [Marquez] throws his jab, the hook is right there to land. [Viloria] has a strong left hand – very strong. That dude is very slick.”
“The Hawaiian Punch” thinks Marquez’s style will make for an explosive fight of the year candidate and knows that Marquez is perhaps the toughest opponent of his career.
“His style, come at you. He’s a good counterpuncher,” said Viloria. “He has good power in his punches. He likes to bang, he doesn’t shy away from any exchange and I’m the same way, too. We both like to come forward and we both like to push our opponents back. When you have two guys like that, the only thing that will come out of that is a great fight.”
With a win over Marquez on Saturday, Viloria will perhaps move one step closer to his dream of fighting on HBO or Showtime. The networks rarely televise fights below 118 pounds, but Viloria can see himself moving up as high as 118 in the future, even though he’s “comfortable at 112.” With a win on Saturday, he hopes he will be able to make his premium network debut.
“[Respect] is a great feeling, but I still have a lot more ways to go,” said Viloria. “Of course, HBO and Showtime, they don’t give us the respect, so I think that’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything else – having their respect, to be televised on their networks. I’m glad and happy that a lot of fans get to see me as what they thought I was coming out of the Olympics and that’s been fulfilled. Hopefully, for this fight, I’m going to take another big step.”
Photos / Jay Directo-AFP/Gettyimages / Jed Jacobsohn-Gettyimages
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