MANILA, Philippines – Brian Viloria knew that he needed to get past Omar Soto in remarkable fashion to stay in the flyweight title mix. Their first meeting in 2010 ended in a split-decision for Viloria, and another inconclusive ending would raise more questions than they answered.
But with 3 knockdowns in just over two minutes at Florentine Gardens in Hollywood, California on Saturday, July 25 (Sunday, July 26 in Manila), Viloria did what he set out to do.
The two-division champion Viloria is now setting his sights on Roman Gonzalez, who is recognized by The Ring magazine as flyweight champion and number two pound-for-pound ranked fighter in the world.
The 28-year-old Gonzalez (43-0, 37 knockouts) is scheduled to fight October 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York City as the co-featured bout to the pay-per-view card headlined by middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin vs David Lemieux, with rumors that Gonzalez could face Viloria.
Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) confirmed to Rappler that he was seeking a fight with Gonzalez, saying that it was a fight he and his team had been interested in for a long time.
“I know I have what it takes to defeat a fighter like Gonzalez. He’s been dodging me the last couple of years,” said the 34-year-old Viloria of Waipahu, Hawaii.
“We’ve been wanting to get a match against him but his people have been saying he’s not ready yet, or he doesn’t want to commence in talks to get us together. Hopefully my manager [Gary Gittelsohn] can do something and get him to commit to a fight against me close to the end of the year or in the next couple of months.”
Gittelsohn tells Rappler that he intends to open discussions for the fight with HBO “first thing Monday morning,” adding that he feels confident of his fighter’s chances.
“I’ve been chasing Gonzalez for a year now. But, with Brian’s focused, flawless performance tonight, I truly believe the heat is on Gonzalez,” said Gittelsohn.
“I don’t think Gonzalez can last with the Brian that fought tonight.”
An email seeking comment from Gonzalez’s manager Carlos Javier Blandon Vidaurre was not immediately returned.
Gittelsohn had told Rappler that a rematch with Juan Francisco Estrada, whom Viloria lost to in April 2013 to cede the unified flyweight title, had been discussed for September. Gonzalez holds a victory over Estrada, however, and would be considered the biggest fight to be made in the lower weight divisions.
Gonzalez of Managua, Nicaragua, has won world titles at 105, 108 and 112 pounds and became one of the few flyweight boxers to be featured on HBO earlier this year when he knocked out former Viloria foe Edgar Sosa in two rounds this past May on the American network’s airwaves.
Viloria, who has won 4 straight fights, would be a significant underdog against Gonzalez. For his part, the 2000 US Olympian points out his upset wins over Ulises Solis, Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez as evidence that he thrives when being overlooked.
“I love being the underdog, historically speaking I’ve done well as an underdog. It pushes me to get into prime shape to compete at this level. I always welcome that role,” said Viloria.
Viloria plans to return to the Wild Card Gym to resume training on Monday, July 27, under Freddie Roach and assistants Marvin Somodio and Roger “Speedy” Gonzalez, so as not to “let myself get too complacent.”
The risk that accompanies a fight with Gonzalez doesn’t come without its rewards. Viloria is hoping a win can punctuate his latest attempt at a return to glory and bring his career to new heights.
“Everyone is saying he’s the big guy in the division. As a fighter I want to test my self against the head honcho of the vision. He’s getting the respect from everyone saying that he’s the guy to beat. I guess thats why I want to go for the big fish,” said Viloria.
“It’ll put me right back in top of being considered a pound-for-pound fighter.”
Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.