By Cliff Rold
A fine rivalry can happen anywhere on the scale. Unfinished business can be resolved a class higher than where it all began. This Saturday, at 112 lbs., 2000 U.S. Olympian attempts to settle his unfinished business with grizzled Mexican veteran Omar Nino just shy of six years after Hurricane Nino took his “0.”
It was a decent-sized upset in August 2006 when Nino outhustled Viloria to win the WBC belt at 108 lbs. A few months later, they did it again. Despite two early knockdowns, the best Viloria could manage was a draw later overturned to a No Contest when Nino failed a drug test.
They’ve had their ups and downs since.
Viloria scored an impressive knockout of Ulises Solis for another belt at 108 only to cough it up late to Carlos Tamara for his lone stoppage loss. Viloria is back on track with a Flyweight title win against Julio Cesar Miranda and a one-sided thrashing of Giovanni Segura.
Nino regained the WBC belt from Rodel Mayol only to lose, for a second time, to journeyman Gilberto Keb Baas in one of 2010’s biggest upsets. Nino has fought only once since and, at 35, attempts one last resurrection.
Can he get it?
Let’s go the report card.
Title: WBO Flyweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Flyweight (2005-06, 1 Defense); IBF Jr. Flyweight (2009-10, 1 Defense)
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 111.5 lbs.
Hails from: Waipahu, Hawaii
Record: 30-3, 17 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #1 at Flyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-3, 3 KO, 1 KOBY, 1 No Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (Gilberto Keb Baas, Eric Ortiz, Jose Antonio Aguirre, Ulises Solis, Julio Cesar Miranda, Giovanni Segura)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Omar Nino, Edgar Sosa, Carlos Tamara)
Previous Titles: WBC Jr. Flyweight (2006); WBC Jr. Flyweight (2010, 1 Defense)
Average Weight – Last Five Fights : 108.1 lbs.
Hails from: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Record: 31-4-2, 13 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-1-1, 1 KO, 1 No Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 4 (Jorge Arce, Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, Rodel Mayol)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Gilberto Keb Baas, Juan Alberto Rosas)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Viloria B+; Nino B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Viloria A-; Nino B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Viloria B; Nino B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Viloria B; Nino B
This fight will likely could come down to how much Nino has left and which Nino shows up. Against Viloria the first time, and off the floor the second, Nino was able to outwork a Viloria who spent too much time trying to land just right instead of just landing.
Viloria has been inconsistent in his career. The Nino fights, and the loss to Sosa, saw him never quite able to pull the trigger the way he wanted. In his best wins, against Solis and Segura, he can appear brilliant. His speed and power are uncommon for lower weights and he has a rich amateur background to fall back on.
What Viloria doesn’t always have is great stamina. Perhaps affected by making weight, he faded late against Tamara in a fight he was winning. Against Miranda, he was holding late as the finish line drew near while legs grew weary. His chin has never been a real liability, but opposing work rate has.
Nino has also been inconsistent. There are times where he just grinds his men down and others where he can’t seem to get in synch. The Keb Baas loss was head scratching, despite being stopped by the same man early in his career. He’s got some excellent wins, beating Arce and Sosa early in all their respective careers and later adding the tough Mayol (after much controversy in their first fight).
The Viloria win remains his signature, aided by the game he showed in evening the cards off the floor. He’s been stopped twice, but not since 2004 against the future 115 lb. titlist Rosas. Nino is effective in leading with a left hook to the head or body from a stance that makes him smaller than he already is. A big question mark here is inactivity. Nino hasn’t had the chance to insure his timing is in peak form the way Viloria did with two tough fights last year.
If Nino gets caught early again, as he did in the Viloria rematch, will he be able to mitigate the left hook over time as he once was able too or is the third time the charm for Viloria?
Viloria comes in with the hot hand but it’s never stopped him from stalling before. This probably won’t be one of those occasions. 112 appears to be a better weight for him and he doesn’t have someone with the physical strength of Miranda to wear at him late. Nino isn’t going to muster the same consistent work he could years ago and it could make him easy picking by the mid-rounds.
Flyweight is an attractive division in terms of action right now and Viloria is looking to keep not only his but the division’s momentum going. He should be able to with a stoppage sometime around the ninth-round in a steady, sometimes crowd pleasing affair.
This fight comes on the same night as HBO’s replay of the last week’s excellent Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto clash. Absent earlier in the week, a look back at that clash and the grades it earned.
An Overdue Look at an Overdue SuperFight
The grinning stopped.
There were times early in the fight where Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KO) seemed to wink and smile at the attacks of Miguel Cotto, as if he didn’t see it continuing. It did. Faced with one of the most physical encounters of his career, Floyd bit down and laid to rest any doubt about the better man with a dazzling final three rounds.
Mayweather added to his thick dossier with the win. Miguel Cotto (37-3, 30 KO) found a measure of redemption in defeat.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cotto B; Mayweather A+/Post: B; A-
Pre-Fight: Power – Cotto B+; Mayweather B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cotto B; Mayweather A+/Post: B+; A
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cotto A; Mayweather A/Post: Same
Say this for one Miguel Cotto: it takes a hell of a fighter to beat him. Whether one thinks Antonio Margarito cheated in their first fight or not (this scribe falls in the latter category), the Mexican banger walked through hell to get it done. For five rounds, despite suffering two knockdowns, Cotto engaged in all-out warfare with Manny Pacquiao.
And now, Mayweather finally has a replacement Emmanuel Augustus when asked who gave him his toughest fight.
It was a fine show both ways, in many ways a defensive struggle as much as offensive. Mayweather held Cotto’s connects down and threw more over the course of the night while Cotto did a sound job taking the right hand away for healthy stretches. As expected, the rise to Jr. Middleweight was irrelevant in the outcome as both men entered relatively the same size, something they’ve been for years.
Scored here at 115-113 for Mayweather, Cotto was given credit for his work in round three, five, six, eight and nine. After the last of these, his intelligent use of the jab, sound body attack, and relative success with the left hand gave him a one-point lead on this card. The way Mayweather took over from there was a sound reminder of how much fighter lies in the heart of the still undefeated master.
As was the case in the rematch with Jose Luis Castillo, Mayweather accelerated and refused to be beaten in a fight where he couldn’t be sure of the scoring heading into the championship rounds.
There are those, including the official judges, who saw it wider for Floyd. They weren’t wrong, with many close rounds all night. Scores in the press have ranged mostly in the 8-4/9-3 realms with bell curves settling at 7-5 and 10-2.
What can be agreed upon is that Mayweather closed the show and left no room for doubt. He almost had Cotto out in the final frame, the heart of the Puerto Rican and sure fatigue for Mayweather after a long night keeping him afoot in the final minute.
It was redeeming for a Cotto many thought shot heading in. Some foolishly wondered aloud if this one might look like Mayweather-Arturo Gatti, forgetting that for all the warrior spirit the late Gatti possessed, he was never on the same championship level as Cotto. Cotto may not have won, but he proved he still belongs with the best in 2012.
Mayweather? He simply proved he remains among if not the very best just as he has been for well over a decade. One could make the case he’s been the game’s best overall fighter since the night he whooped the late Diego Corrales with a five-knockdown gem. Cotto emerged as a rival in 2007-08. We waited a long time for a clash.
It was worth the wait. Could it have been better earlier? Maybe. It was good enough Saturday, arriving right on time for fans that wanted a special fight between special fighters.
There’s really only one other fighter with who can compete with Mayweather’s claim to the top of the mountain right now. Everyone knows who. The competitiveness of the Cotto affair will be fodder for debate just as much as Manny Pacquiao’s tough third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez has been since last November. The battle of common opponents carries on.
One day, maybe they’ll have each other instead.
If not, the best fans can ask for is to get their money’s worth when the two best fighters in the world step in the ring. Saturday, Money was worthy of every dime spent. So was Miguel Cotto.
One month from now, we can only ask the same of Pacquiao’s battle with the world’s best Jr. Welterweight, Timothy Bradley. Mayweather-Cotto made it that much easier to look forward to the next round of “SuperFight” to come.
The way it is supposed to be.
Report Card Picks 2012: 23-5
Cliff Rold is a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]