LOS ANGELES – The two major U.S. networks that broadcast boxing have never had much interest in the 112-pound division, so it was no surprise to hardcore fans when both HBO and Showtime passed on the Brian Viloria-Hernan “Tyson” Marquez WBO-WBA flyweight unification bout, which took place at the Sports Arena on Saturday.
WealthTV was the only English-language U.S. network interested in the gem, and they got a hell of fight. If the boxing programmers of two subscription cable giants were paying attention they saw Viloria score the best victory of his 11-year career. The 31-year-old veteran overcame a spirited challenge from Marquez, decking the Mexican southpaw three times en route to a dramatic 10th-round stoppage.
If there was ever an HBO- or Showtime-worthy flyweight, it’s Viloria. He’s American, born and raised in Waipahu, Hawaii, but being the son of immigrants from the Philippines, he taps into that loyal fan base as well. Viloria (32-3, 37 knockouts) is also immensely talented. The 2000 U.S. Olympian is a ring savvy boxer-puncher who can stick and move or attack with gusto.
“I wish I was on HBO, I wish I was on Showtime,” Viloria said after the fight. “I hope my next fight can be on those networks. I hope they saw the fight tonight.”
Against Marquez, Viloria started more aggressively than usual, taking the fight to the 24-year-old titleholder and scoring a first-round knockdown immediately after being stunned himself. Viloria walked Marquez down in the early going but the Sonora native surged back in the middle rounds and almost overwhelmed the Filipino-American in the fifth. Marquez stunned Viloria and then savagely swarmed him for most of the round, prompting referee David Mendoza to take a close look as he covered up along the ropes. But just when it seemed that Marquez was in command, Viloria struck from his defensive shell and scored his second knockdown.
From that point on, fans inside the Los Angeles Sports Arena were treated to a compelling fight. Viloria worked his jab, moved in spots, counter punched to the body and head with accuracy and dropped lightning-quick one-two combinations, but Marquez stalked with purpose, working hard to get the more talented fighter to the ropes where he got the better of vicious exchanges.
By the late rounds, many in attendance believed Viloria was gassing out. He faded badly in his last loss, a 12th-round TKO to Carlos Tamara in January of 2010. Although Viloria did a good job slipping punches in round nine, the feeling in the arena – especially among Mexican fans – was that he’d lost his offensive edge and that Marquez was coming on.
They were wrong. A monster left hook from Viloria dropped Marquez a third time at the start of the 10th. Marquez beat the count but Viloria attacked in a manner that caused his trainer, Robert Garcia, to throw in the towel. Mendoza stopped the bout at 1:01 of the round.
“To win the way I did tonight, against a fellow champion, this was greater than anything I could imagine,” Viloria said. “This is the most satisfying win of my career.”
Indeed, he seems to be exhibiting his best fighting form late in his career.
“I’ve gone through my ups and downs but I found my niche and this is how I fight now,” said Viloria, who added that he was not tiring out in the late rounds.
“I was trying to be patient,” he said. “I was trying to take my time and lure him in because I knew I could catch him when he came forward. I’ve matured and I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to his point. I think I’m like a fine wine. I’m getting better with age.”
The question going forward is if HBO or Showtime will choose to showcase any of Viloria’s late-career resurgence.
There aren’t many attractive challengers for Viloria, but they exist. One of them – undefeated WBA 108-pound titleholder Roman Gonzalez – fought in the co-featured bout on Saturday. Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KOs) called Viloria out after defending his title with a rousing unanimous decision over game Juan Francisco Estrada.
Viloria is aware of the marvelously talented Nicaraguan boxer-puncher.
“I have to fight whoever they put in front of me, but of course, I’m interested in fighting (Gonzalez),” he said.
Will HBO or Showtime be interested in televising Viloria-Gonzalez?
“I have no idea,” Viloria said. “The only thing I can do is put on great fights.”