How many times have we counted out Brian Viloria?
The first time came in 2001, when Viloria turned pro with decision win over Filipino Ben Escobia. Viloria injured his hand in his very first paid contest and not a few attributed the brittle hands to a career in the amateur ranks that spanned close to 300 bouts. Having overstayed in the amateur ranks, Viloria appeared destined to a moribund career in the punch-for-pay business.
Viloria proved his critics wrong as he won two division world titles. A natural flyweight (112 pounds), he trimmed down to the light flyweight class (108 pounds) and won the World Boxing Council (WBC) title with a smashing one-round knockout of Mexican Eric Ortiz in 2005. Then again, the burdensome task of staying at 108 pounds took its toll on Viloria as he struggled to keep the belt. When he sleepwalked and lost the crown to Mexican Omar Nino Romero in 2006, Viloria’s conditioning was placed under scrutiny. When Viloria put up a listless effort in a decision loss to Mexican Edgar Sosa for the vacant WBC light flyweight crown in 2007, talks about him being shop-worn in just his fifth year as a pro surfaced again.
Viloria responded by taking the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) version of the light flyweight crown in April 2009 with a riveting 11th round stoppage of Mexican Ulises Solis. The second reign, however, ended in a harrowing manner as Viloria was battered in 12 rounds by Carlos Tamara in January 2010. The sight of Viloria gasping for breath and being wheeled to the hospital was a frightening one that prompted calls for his immediate retirement.
Once again, Viloria refused to be counted out. He finally moved up to the flyweight class and became a champion again in July 2011 when he won the World Boxing Organization (WBO) title with an impressive decision over Mexican Julio Cesar Miranda. Between July 2011 and November 2012, Viloria enjoyed the most successful and impressive stretch in his career as he blasted into oblivion tough Mexican hombres Romero, Giovani Segura and Hernan ‘Tyson’ Marquez. The knockout of Marquez in November 2012 made Viloria the sole ruler of the WBO and World Boxing Association (WBA) flyweight thrones.
Viloria was on a roll when his conditioning betrayed him again opposite Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada in April 2013. Viloria started well but ran out of steam in the second half of the fight to lose the combined WBO/WBA belts on a decision. Viloria was out on his feet in the last round and barely avoided a knockout loss.
Viloria once again faced the spectre of retirement following the loss to Estrada. But he regrouped once more, taking the next 11 months off before resurfacing with a pedestrian decision win over Juan Herrera in March 2014. But in his most recent outing, Viloria looked devastating anew with a debilitating fifth-round knockout of former world title challenger Jose Alfredo Zuniga of Mexico.
Viloria’s boxing career has come to resemble the stock market. One moment his stock is soaring and the next time out it is crashing faster than Enron’s.
While his conditioning remains suspect, Viloria has time and again defied the odds because his punching power has not totally abandoned him. He was on the verge of running out of steam against Solis when he caught the Mexican with a perfect counter and flattened him. Against the relatively smaller Zuniga, Viloria (34-4, 20 knockouts) showed that he can still work the body as he flattened the Mexican with a perfect left hook to the ribcage.
Make no mistake, at age 33, the ‘Hawaiian Punch’ can still stir and leave his opponent shaken. However, the windows are still closing in on Viloria. He is targeting a return bout with Estrada but the Mexican is set to defend against Segura in September. Viloria also has in his radar IBF flyweight champ Amnant Ruenroeng (13-0, 5 knockouts) who is beatable. Ruenroeng took up boxing late and is already 34 years old. The Thai is a slick boxer who does not throw punches in bunches. Viloria tends to capitulate against pressure sluggers so Ruenroeng’s more laidback approach makes the Fil-American a solid pick.
Another possible foe for Viloria is former Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming of China. Shiming is a huge attraction in Macau and a fight with Viloria promises tons of cash. Viloria recently became a father and he may want the Shiming fight for financial security. The Olympic angle in such a matchup is obvious as Viloria represented the United States in the 2000 Olympics.
Viloria will have to make up his mind quick as he no longer has time on his side. Viloria is arguably on the final leg of a sterling career and if there is one thing he desires, it is to go out with a bang.