by Cliff Rold
Can the pieces come together this time?
Make no mistake. The pieces are there at Flyweight. Putting aside a lineal champion who likely won’t reign long (Sonny Boy Jaro), 112 lbs. is led by a pair of exciting titlists who possess all the elements for a fine puncher’s duel.
After avenging the first defeat of his career over the weekend, stopping Omar Nino in the ninth round of a three fight, six-tear series, Brian Viloria is one of the best resurrection stories in boxing.
The 2000 U.S. Olympian has always seemed to trip just before he could fully realize his talent. A medal favorite in 2000, he lost in the second round. On course for a showdown with Ivan Calderon, he lost to Nino and then Edgar Sosa. Two years ago, stopped by Carlos Tamara, it looked like a pretty good pro career would have to be good enough.
Viloria is reaching for more. Three big wins in a row give him a WBO belt and the look of the best in the world at Flyweight. His main competition for the designation, WBA titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, provides a serious rival and a worthy addition to the red hot Mexico-Philippines rivalry of this era.
Add in quality IBF titlist Moruti Mthalane, rising contender Mlian Melindo, and the inevitable rise of Jr. Flyweight Roman Gonzalez, and 112 lbs. could become a hot spot. Will it?
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Viloria B+; Nino B-/Post: A-; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Viloria A-; Nino B-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Viloria B; Nino B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Viloria B; Nino B/Post: B+; B
Flyweight was even richer with talent for a lengthy time in the previous decade. It never really came together for more than an occasional hot match. There hasn’t been a unification match in the division since well before Ronald Reagan was President.
Viloria is talking the talk in that direction and he’s winning to keep the talk relevant. It wasn’t easy against Nino. It hasn’t been easy in any of their three fights. Something about the way Nino responds to the speed and technical proficiency of Viloria is just a bear for the Hawaiian’s timing. Viloria fought his best fight of the series, getting off big in the fourth and ninth rounds, scoring the stop in the latter, but without ever really looking comfortable for any stretch of time.
Some rivals are just like that. This trilogy won’t draw any comparisons to the action classics. It wasn’t that sort of rivalry. None of the fights were the sort to demand return viewing. In that sense, it was like their personal Ali-Norton affair, two quality pugilists pushing each other in the most awkward ways imaginable.
Nino had his moments and can be proud of his long career. He’s won and lost against some of the best little men of the last fifteen years. He showed pride and game in fighting against the decision of his corner and referee Michael Ortega to stop the fight without his having left his feet. He just didn’t have the ability to sustain the volume of punches he needed to befuddle Viloria out of the winner’s circle as he did in scoring a win and draw (later overturned to a “No Contest” when he failed a drug test) the first two times.
He’s 35. It happens. Nino can probably still hang with a lot of the class should he linger on.
Viloria (31-3, 18 KO) will eventually fall again. At 31, he’s already aging for a Flyweight and must continue to push to finish his mark on the sport. If he can’t get straight to Marquez, a rematch with the second man to defeat him, Sosa, would also be worthy.
But, really, Marquez (33-2, 25 KO) is the fight. Anyone who witnessed his two bouts with Luis Concepcion, the first a war and the second a blazing first round knockout, knows why.
Both men can crack. Both are vulnerable. Both have enough cache with hardcore fans to make this a rare must-see clash at 112 lbs. Whether it’s to be on Showtime, HBO, or some pay-per-view nether land, it needs to happen. Viloria has bested three in a row from Mexico: Julio Cesar Miranda, Giovanni Segura, and Nino.
Marquez can avenge his countrymen.
Or so the promotion can sell it.
So many potentially great Flyweight matches have eluded the history of the game over the four decades since split titles became permanent. We never saw Miguel Canto-Guty Espadas or Mark Johnson-Yuri Arbachakov. Pongsaklek Wonjongkam made historical numbers but never a clash with a Nonito Donaire or Vic Darchinyan.
There are reasons for misses like those. Politics intervene, as does geography. Neither needs to be an obstacle here. This could be a perfect storm.
Nothing should stop Viloria-Marquez.
Now to catch up on two weeks of moves in the divisional ratings...
Report Card Picks 2012: 24-5
Heavyweight: Kubrat Pulev was given strong consideration for entry and Marco Huck was given strong consideration for removal, from the Heavyweight ranks. Ultimately, Pulev impressively defeating the woefully mediocre Alexander Dimitrenko was outweighed by Huck getting jobbed on the cards against Alexander Povetkin in February. If Huck makes clear he won’t be coming back to Heavyweight within the foreseeable future (and he was back in action at Cruiserweight on Saturday), a change will be in order.
Cruiserweight: Huck came back to earn an entertaining draw against Ola Afolabi and, with now nine defenses at Cruiserweight, moves into the number one contender slot. His strong loss and draw in consecutive fights, and lengthy run of quality is finally enough here to move him past the only man to truly defeat him: Steve Cunningham. Afolabi gets a bump as well, up two slots from seven.
Jr. Middleweight: Floyd Mayweather enters at number one, dropping everyone below him one slot. Vanes Martirosyan exits the top ten for now.
Welterweight: Mayweather remains the lineal champion of the class. Shane Mosley, while losing one division up, hasn’t won in any division since 2009. He exits the top ten and Jessie Vargas enters.
Flyweight: Viloria maintains the top slot. Rodel Mayol enters the top ten with an impressive win over former titlist Julio Cesar Miranda; Miranda drops a couple pegs. Also victorious over the last weekend, Juan Carlos Reveco moves up a couple slots and is overdue for the bump, he’s been the WBA interim titlist for a couple years. One wonders if the Argentine and Marquez will ever face off.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org