Brian Viloria keeps fighting for ‘love of the sport’
For the 44th time in his pro career, and for the first time in 15 months, Brian Viloria walked up those ring steps once again. It’s the same climb he’d made since he started boxing at age nine. Now age 36, he knows the day is coming when he won’t be stepping through those ropes as a fighter.
No one would blame Viloria if he walked away after his previous fight, a ninth round technical knockout loss to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in October of 2015.
After winning almost every title as an amateur and making the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, followed by the IBF and WBC junior flyweight titles before becoming the first to unify flyweight titles in 47 years, losing to the pound-for-pound champion in Madison Square Garden wouldn’t be the worst way to go out.
What brought him to the Kokugikan sumo stadium in Tokyo, Japan for an eight-rounder against Ruben Montoya was the sense that he was fulfilling his life’s purpose.
“Love of the sport. I just feel like this was something I was born to do,” said Viloria by phone, shortly after defeating Montoya by unanimous decision to move to 37-5 (22 knockouts) in his career.
“I love everything about boxing. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I think that’s enough to keep pushing me.”
Also motivating him to continue is his son Tyler, who’ll soon be three years old.
“Showing him to not give up, just pursue something that you love doing and continue on for as long as you can physically and mentally. That motivates me a lot. I want to show to my son, be an example for that,” said Viloria, who was accompanied to Tokyo by his wife Erica.
The fight was the beginning of a new start for Viloria, being his first since signing with Japanese promoter Teiken Promotions. He prepared at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood just as he has for years but was without cornerman and Freddie Roach’s protege’ Marvin Somodio, who had difficulty obtaining a visa. Instead Viloria relied on Juan Manuel Jiminez, a veteran trainer who works with amateurs at Wild Card, and Ruben Gomez, who has been there with Viloria through all of the ups-and-downs of his pro career.
(RELATED: Brian Viloria is no fighter to take lightly)
Viloria admits he felt “a little rusty” but says it was a “good start” to what is his third or so comeback following an extended layoff.
“This fight just gave me a great indication of where I’m at. I know I have a lot more to work at. This was a good indication,” said Viloria.
Viloria figures he’d need another tune-up or two to “get my legs back under me” and says he needs to talk it over with manager Gary Gittelsohn and his new promoter. If he had his pick of the class at 112 pounds, he’d prefer the WBO titleholder Zou Shiming, a former sparring partner of his at Wild Card.
“If Shiming is interested in fighting, that’s one thing that we’re interested at,” said Viloria.
When “The Hawaiian Punch” finally punches his clock for the final time, he just wants to look back and say he left it all in the ring.
“But I know that I’m coming up to that time where I’m gonna have to cross that bridge to retirement and when I do find myself having to make that decision, I’ll make sure that I’ve put everything into the sport and didn’t hold anything back. That’s how I feel about me wanting to finish out my career,” said Viloria.
“I also want to go out on the top. That’s one of my plans.”
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 [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.
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