This weekend finally marks the title-unification showdown between WBO flyweight champion, Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria and WBA flyweight champion, Hernan "Tyson" Marquez is finally at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
If you love Twix, this is the bite-sized version of it; Viloria vs. Marquez truly has the makings of a delicious pugilistic treat for the many starving boxing diabetics out there.
Viloria (31-3, 18 KOs) and Marquez (34-2, 25 KOs) are two of boxing's best heavy-handed little men at the top of their games. Just a glance at the men behind them - Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach and Trainer of the Year candidate Robert Garcia - and any true boxing fan can instantly realize the significance of this match-up.
Viloria, 31, has written his resurgence and redemption this past two years after suffering a scare when he passed out and was rushed to the hospital after losing his IBF jr. flyweight title to Carlos Tamara in January of 2010. Not too long after, he split with his then-trainer Garcia, who questioned his conditioning prior fighting Omar Soto that same year. The Viloria camp contended that it was Garcia simply mishandling a conflict of interest due to the fact that the Oxnard, Cali.-based trainer signed up to train another Filipino-American boxing champion in Nonito Donaire, Jr. who had a fight around the same time.
Written off by many boxing observers (this scribe included), Viloria laid it all on the line and took on the biggest possible challenges available at a time when people felt he was done, and succeeded. After two wins to get some momentum behind him, Viloria thrilled his hometown fans when he dropped Julio Cesar Miranda in the first round en route to nabbing the WBO flyweight title.
Instead of opting for an easy first defense, Viloria went the opposite route by taking on the most dangerous flyweight at the time when he faced then-top pound-for-pound fighter Giovani Segura at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, Philippines. Viloria totally outclassed and pummeled Segura, who after 8 rounds, was deemed unfit to continue due to massive swelling on his right eye, which was the target of Viloria's effective hooks all night long.
For his second defense, Viloria looked to strap on his proverbial Ghostbusters proton pack and exorcise some demons by facing nemesis Omar Nino Romero, the man responsible for his first defeat, back at the Ynares Sports Arena last May. Viloria stamped his class as he did in his previous fights with Romero, but this time, finished the fight by the virtue of his hard punches, forcing the Mexican corner to force a halt to the contest in the 9th round. “He didn’t feel my power in the first two fights,” Viloria said after the fight. In an interview after his most recent win, Viloria told this scribe that he credits his maturity and renewed appreciation for the sport of boxing as main reasons for his career turnaround.
Nicknamed "Tyson" for the power he packs in his 5'4" frame, Marquez, 24, is coming from an underwhelming split decision win over Filipino Fernando Lumacad last July in Mexico in a fight fought at 115. Marquez's handlers, however, sent him to Oxnard to train with Viloria's estranged trainer, Garcia, to help him get to optimum form this weekend.
Prior to the win over Lumacad, Marquez was on a warpath, highlighted by his sensational fight with Luis Concepcion in Panama, wherein both fighters traded first round knockdowns in an all out slug-fest. Marquez eventually overpowered Concepcion to nab the WBA flyweight belt via TKO in the 11th round.
Despite his youth, Marquez has a lot of valuable experience under his belt having fought the likes of Nonito Donaire, Jr., and being put to the hilt by Concepcion and another Filipino in Richie Mepranum. If there's one thing that Marquez proved in all his fights, it's that he will keep coming until the end.
Concepcion avenged the first of loss of his career to Mepranum last March, flooring him twice in Mexico in a unanimous decision win. The loss to Donaire, on the other hand, proved the fighter's courage in the midst of a daunting challenge, and only strengthened his resolve moving forward.
They will shake hands, trade compliments and respect, say the right things to the media, but there's no doubt this is personal. Viloria and Garcia didn't part in an amicable manner, and it's not by accident Garcia agreed to help Marquez defeat his former student.
Granted, Garcia will not be in the ring fighting Viloria with Marquez, but his familiarity with his former pupil will definitely play a role in this fight. Though Viloria is an improved boxer compared to the last time he fought under Garcia's watch, there's still going to be weaknesses and inside knowledge the Mexican trainer can exploit. And with the right weapon such as Marquez, Garcia's intel can prove to be the difference between success and failure.
For one, Garcia will want to test Viloria's conditioning after personally witnessing him fade in the championship rounds during their fights together. Garcia will employ Marquez to apply pressure and overwhelm Viloria the way he does his prized pupil Brandon Rios each time he fights. Garcia has trained Marquez like a horse in camp to test Viloria's will to the very end like he did Antonio Margarito when fought Manny Pacquiao. The real question is, how will Viloria react?
I give all the advantages to Viloria in this fight; speed, skills, experience, technique. The power department is a wash, but I do want to see how Viloria fares in the championship rounds. It's of note that his previous two victories came within the distance, and he did seem to struggle toward the end against Miranda despite pulling off the win. Viloria will have to fight a smart fight, and hurt Marquez early. How he responds to early exchanges and how it affects him toward the latter rounds will be the telling point of the fight. If he doesn't stop Marquez with 8 or score majority of the rounds early, he'll surely be in for a long night.
This is too close to call. It can go either way. Viloria by TKO early, or Marquez by TKO late. If it does go the distance, I think Viloria will have scored enough to come away with a split decision win.
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Dennis is an MMA and Filipino Sports writer for Examiner.com; boxing writer for BoxingScene.com; NBA writer for NBA.com Philippines; sportswriter for the Sun Star newspaper, The Guardians newspaper in the Philippines; TV host for Fil-Am TV; contributor to PTV Sports on channel 4, 5-6 pm in the Philippines; TV5's InterAksyon.com. You can follow him on Twitter @dRealSource.