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Roman Gonzalez vs. Brian Viloria: Believe the hype?

Fighters Network

Gonzalez-Viloria split

The annoying reality is that many seats at boxing venues are empty until the main event.

The main event at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 17 is being heavily promoted and is eagerly anticipated, with many feeling WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin will emerge as the sport’s next breakout star in the post-Mayweather era should he defeat David Lemieux.

The HBO pay-per-view’s co-featured bout will give fans a reason to get to their seats early, however, as Roman Gonzalez, who took Floyd Mayweather’s spot as THE RING’s pound-for-pound best fighter, faces former two-division champion Brian Viloria.

The fight, which will put Gonzalez’s RING/WBC flyweight championship at stake along with his unbeaten record and Viloria’s future in the sport, stands a significant chance of stealing the spotlight.

It’s being hailed as the best little big fight since Michael Carbajal vs Humberto Gonzalez in 1993, and with good reason. In 79 combined wins between Gonzalez and Viloria, 59 of them have ended in knockouts.

It’s a rare occasion when fighters in the 112-pound weight class are given an opportunity to showcase in front of a large American television audience, but the matchup promises to give a good accounting of fighters in the lower weight classes.

“I never understood the corporate bias against the smaller weights, especially because traditionally the lighter weight divisions are among the most talent-laden,” Gary Gittelsohn, Viloria’s manager, said during Tuesday’s international media conference call.

Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua (R) delivers

Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/Getty

“I’m certain of one thing though: After this fight, flyweights will not have to come begging to the premium cable networks to get airtime.”

Gonzalez (43-0, 37 knockouts) made the most of his first HBO World Championship Boxing spotlight in May, destroying Edgar Sosa in two rounds. The 28-year-old from Managua, Nicaragua, had been one of the sport’s best-kept secrets since winning the WBA strawweight title in 2008.

He has since added titles at junior flyweight and flyweight, with only current WBA/WBO flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada (who won a decision over Viloria in 2013) lasting the 12-round distance with him in his last 15 fights.

He is, as reporter Norm Frauenheim stated of his research for a story on Gonzalez for an upcoming issue of THE RING, the first flyweight one can recall who has risen to recognition as the best fighter in the world.

“I believe that Brian Viloria is an excellent champion, a great fighter, a very hard fight,” Gonzalez said through manager Carlos Blandon from his training camp in Costa Rica.

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Gonzalez could scarcely find a more worthy dance partner for the occasion than Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs), who is rated No. 3 by THE RING at 112 pounds. Viloria, a two-time junior flyweight titleholder who became the first boxer to unify the flyweight titles since 1965 when he stopped Hernan Marquez in 2012, remains a viable contender 14 years after turning pro.

Now 34, Viloria has won four straight since losing a split decision to Estrada. He admits to having allowed his focus leading up to fights wain – which he blames for a number of his upset defeats – but says he has stepped his preparations up for what is likely the best opponent he has yet to face.

“I don’t think Chocolatito has ever fought a guy who could hit as hard as me, and who is a bit faster than anyone he’s ever fought,” said the Filipino-American boxer from Waipahu, Hawaii. “I think I possess a challenge for Chocolatito in this fight, and I have the experience of being in big battles, big fights. I don’t think Chocolatito has ever fought a guy who fights like me.

“All I need to do is come into the fight with a straight head and just to let my hands go.”

Fights billed as can’t-miss action bouts seem jinxed to disappoint. This one might be the exception to the rule.