Wednesday, September 27, 2023  |


Does Brian Viloria have one more surprise up his sleeve?

Fighters Network
Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Ask Brian Viloria about the opportunity that lies before him and watch his eyes grow bigger and a smile cross his face. And why not?

Viloria has had a hell of a career, winning four world titles in two divisions, but consider some of the places in which he has fought: a swap meet in Los Angeles, a small, nondescript beach resort up the California coast and a small auditorium in the L.A. suburb of Glendale.

Then consider Oct. 17, when he’ll face Roman Gonzalez for the RING and WBC flyweight titles on the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux card at Madison Square Garden on HBO Pay-Per-View.

That’s rarefied air for a such small fighter.

“I can’t tell myself, ‘Yeah, this is just another fight,'” Viloria told THE RING Thursday at the L.A. press conference to promote the card. “This is the biggest stage of my life – New York City, Madison Square Garden, pay per view. I just don’t want to psyche myself out thinking about how big it is, the enormity of it.

“I have to take it one day at a time, one training step at a time to get myself 100 percent ready. Then, with all that training, everything will take of itself.”

There is little danger of Viloria becoming a deer in headlights. The former Olympian, now 34, has fought the best in the world in some of the best fights over the past 15 years even if some of the locales have been obscure.

What took him so long to land a fight like the one on Oct. 17? His size, or lack thereof, more than anything else. The tiniest boxers are rarely featured on TV.

“When you get into the business of being a professional fighter, you want to perform on the big stage,” said Gary Gittelsohn, Viloria’s longtime manager and father figure. “Because of Brian’s size, he’s been denied that opportunity for a very long time. It wasn’t for lack of knocking on the door. We’ve tried and tried and tried.

“HBO and Showtime, they’re like air-traffic controllers. When a big plane wants to come in, the small planes have to circle. That’s what happens in the lighter weights. Brian has had some unbelievable fights against some unbelievable fighters. Unfortunately they’ve taken place either in the Philippines or in locations in which he didn’t get the exposure.

“Now, to be at Madison Square Garden on HBO Pay-Per-View as the co-feature to a middleweight unification bout ÔǪ it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Viloria can thank Gonzalez (43-0, 37 knockouts) to a great extent. The hard-punching Nicaraguan has broken through those longstanding barriers with a string of spectacular, fan-friendly victories.

As a result, he has made believers out of HBO executives and launched himself onto most pound-for-pound lists, meaning he’s considered one of the best in the business.

That begs the obvious question: Is “Chocolatito” too much for an aging veteran who has been through many wars over the years? Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) and Gittelsohn certainly don’t think so.

Viloria has been the type of fighter who has fought down to his competition at times. One example might be Carlos Tamara, a Colombian who took Viloria’s junior flyweight belt by a surprising 12th-round knockout in 2010 and then went 3-4-1 in the rest of his career.

Some observers thought that was the beginning of the end for Viloria, who even then was old for such a small fighter.

But when he’s truly motivated, even in recent years, it seems anything is possible. He was a decided underdog in title fights against then-hot Giovani Segura and Hernan Marquez in 2011 and 2012, respectively, yet stopped them both in entertaining fashion.

The moral of this story might be: Never count Viloria out.

“Brian has never shown signs of getting old,” Gittelsohn said. “He’s shown signs of not turning in his best performance or being lackadaisical when he doesn’t feel challenged. He walked into some fights nobody thought he could lose and he lost. That’s only because he had other things going on in his life and didn’t think it was challenge.

“Every time he was written off, though, when he was declared the underdog, whether it was against Segura, Marquez or a few others, Brian not only won the fight, he looked sensational in doing so. I’m just hoping the same thing holds true on Oct. 17th.

“Chocolatito is clearly Brian’s greatest challenge. This is one of those defining moments when you see how good Chocolatito is and how much Brian has left.”

Viloria was asked whether he feels Gonzalez is as good as people say he is. He responded diplomatically but honestly.

“I’ve looked at tapes of him. I really didn’t see anything I haven’t seen before,” Viloria said with a shrug. Is Gonzalez in part the product of hype? “I think he is. I don’t think he’s ever been tested the way I’ll test him in October.

“ÔǪ I know I have more left in the tank. Some people might say I’m a step slower and everyone has a right to their opinion. I know myself, though, I know what I can and can’t do. We’ll see.”