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Brian Viloria, once written off, now set for historic flyweight unification bout versus Hernan Marquez

November 14, 2012 1:12pm
It wasn't too long ago that Brian Viloria was considered damaged goods. The promising prospect from the 2000 U.S. Olympic boxing team had won the light flyweight title twice, but after losing to Carlos Tamara by twelfth round stoppage, it seemed that those days were gone for good.

Had Viloria retired after the Tamara defeat, as many had suggested he should, he'd be remembered as a fighter who accomplished more than most, but fell short of career expectations.

But he didn't, continuing on and annexing the WBO flyweight title by defeating Julio Cesar Miranda, then stopping pound-for-pound talent Giovani Segura and knocking out old rival Omar Nino. Now, as the Filipino-American boxer from Waipahu, Hawaii prepares to unify the 112 pound championship with WBA title claimant Hernan "Tyson" Marquez this Saturday at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, Viloria's career is beginning to appear more and more Hall of Fame-worthy.

But even Viloria had doubts himself about whether he'd ever compete at this level again.

"There had been times where I was thinking, 'Man, am I done?,'" Viloria admitted to GMA News. "I doubted myself a few times but when you dig deeper and figure out what you want, at that point it was that I didn't want it to end that way. If I decided to retire, this is a bad note for me to retire on. I felt like I really had enough left in the tank to make another great run and I think I am showing it right now."

A triumphant Viloria (R) holds up his WBO title during a motorcade in Manila last May. Danny Pata

Viloria-Marquez will be aired live on WealthTV in the United States, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and via satellite starting at 3pm, Sunday, on GMA 7 in the Philippines.

The bout can also be followed live on Super Radyo DZBB 594 MHz at 10 a.m., Sunday, with a TV replay on GMA News TV Channel 11 at 10 p.m. on the same day.

Viloria, whose record stands at 31-3 (18 knockouts), has returned to the Wild Card Gym in L.A. for this latest challenge, which will be the first time the flyweight belts will be unified since 1965. Viloria had been training out of the Wild Card when he first became champion in 2005 - when he separated Eric Ortiz from his senses and the WBC light flyweight belt.

It'd been years since Viloria had trained at Wild Card, but when his trainer Mario Morales had issues returning to the United States following Viloria's conquest of Nino in May, Viloria needed a new trainer. He found one in Marvin Somodio, a young upstart from Iloilo handpicked from Pacquiao's training camps in Baguio as Freddie Roach's protege.

"He knows his boxing," said Viloria of Somodio, who will turn 29 on November 27 three days after Viloria turns 32. "Freddie has been mentoring him and he's understanding how to train a fighter. Marvin's been coming into his own and it's a pleasure working with him."

Somodio has worked with Roach as an assistant for each Pacquiao fight since 2009's Miguel Cotto fight. His amateur credentials include a Philippine National championship in 2006, in which he was named the Best Boxer of the tournament. He had a brief pro career, racking up a 2-1 record in 2011, but only turned pro at Roach's behest to gain experience and insight.

Viloria's opponent - the 34-2 (25 KOs) Marquez of Empalme, Sonora, Mexico - also has a new trainer. Marquez hired Viloria's former trainer Robert Garcia, with whom Viloria had worked from 2008-2010. Garcia had left Viloria's camp just weeks prior to his 2010 bout with Omar Soto, citing a disagreement about whether Viloria had trained sufficiently for the bout (Viloria won by split decision). Now Garcia resurfaces in his career, this time for the other side.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel kinda betrayed, it was like a little slap in the face," said Viloria. "But it all comes with the territory, it was his decision, I respect that. At the same time, I hope he understands that I'm a completely different fighter than I was when I was with him, so anything that he's trying to exploit from then, it's not going to work. It also works both ways, I know how he trains fighters so I know how hard he'll prepare his fighters so that kinda motivated me a lot more than usual."

A voicemail to Garcia was not returned.

The southpaw Marquez - known as "Tyson" for his punching power - is much younger than Viloria at 24 and has beaten three Filipinos in his last four fights. Marquez's only career defeats are a unanimous decision loss to Pinoy Richie Mepranum and an eighth round TKO to the much larger Nonito Donaire Jr., who coincidentally also trains with Garcia.

"Fighting a Mexican is always a challenge," said Viloria. "You know they're always going to bring their A-game into the fight and try to bring the best, so you always have to prepare yourself 110 percent. Marquez is going to bring everything he has up to the point where he looked for an old trainer of mine to find my weaknesses and stuff."

Somodio, in assessment of Marquez, said, "He can punch but he has not fought a strong puncher like Brian yet."

As Viloria heads towards another defining fight in his career, he takes a moment to put his career into perspective. He's been a pro since 2001, and his career rise has run parallel to that of Pacquiao, who ushered in a Golden Age for Philippine boxing. While many pundits are busy searching for the next Manny Pacquiao, they should take a moment to appreciate the first Brian Viloria.

Viloria (L) spars against Marvin Somodio. Picture courtesy of Marvin Somodio

"You wanna be remembered long after you're gone in the sport," said Viloria. "For me, my time's been limited. I'm going to be turning 32 this year, my years are coming to an end pretty much. I'm going to have to take every fight like it's my last fight. It's been a long, up-and-down road for me, everybody has been looking for the next Manny Pacquiao, which I tell them is really hard to find another Manny Pacquiao. Everybody is looking for the next Michael Jordan in the sport of basketball, but if you can make your own mark in the sport, make people remember you by what you've done.

"I'm trying to make my own name and try to be remember as that Filipino fighter from Hawaii that went to the Olympics and all that. Hopefully they will remember me as that fighter who was resilient and never stayed on the ground for too long. He always got right back on his feet and kept fighting." - CLP, GMA News



Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel and can be reached at ryan@ryansongalia.com. An archive of his work can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.
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