By Ronnie Nathanielsz
Former two-time world light flyweight champion Brian Viloria failed to live up to the prediction of longtime trainer and corner-man Ruben Gomez that Viloria will “kick ass” in his flyweight comeback fight against Mexican journeyman Omar Soto, but he did enough to win a split decision before a good crowd at the Solar Sports “Boxing at the Bay” series at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City on Saturday.
Among those who arrived early for the fights were Congressman Manny Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound king and “Fighter of the Decade,” his lovely wife Jinkee and Congressman Patrick Antonio. Jinkee told us “we are here to support Brian Viloria.”
Viloria was in control of the fight in the first five rounds working behind his jab and occasional solid rights but Soto came on beginning round six and took the fight to Viloria, often trying to bully him with shots to the body and the head as Viloria danced out of trouble and continued to flick his left jab to keep Soto at bay.
Viloria needed a big finish to clinch the verdict of the judges and it was precisely what former super middleweight champion Frankie Liles told him before the final round. At a post fight news conference Liles said he told Viloria “give us a strong round although I didn’t think it was going to be a deciding factor. I thought he was ahead but you never take anything for granted.”
Judge Epi Almeda proved that point when he had Soto the winner 97-93. However, in what amounted to a ridiculous eight point swing Canlas and Edwin Sese had Viloria the winner by a similar 97-93 margin. Manila Standard and Viva Sports saw the fight 96-94 for Viloria.
Liles said he attributed the seeming closeness of the fight to Viloria, pointing out that “there were times when his focus and his concentration drifted but we were able to put him back on course although there was one time when Ruben started shouting with emotion and I told him relax. But I think Brian did a great job. I personally think Brian is a boxer-puncher and he could have used more of that tonight because he had the guy (Soto) outmatched as far as boxing skills go but when Soto was walking in I told Brian I want you to throw big shots, make him respect you.”
Viloria, in a post fight press conference said “ I thought this was a good first step in getting myself back into championship form. It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done this time. I didn’t want to make it too dramatic. I put my boxing skills to do the work and I just wanted to come out there safe, shake a little bit of cobwebs out and I think I did that tonight.”
The former two time WBC and IBF champion said “Now I’m going to go back straight to the gym, work even harder for my next fight and learn some of the things I need to work on and just see where this goes.”
Viloria conceded that he had “a little bit of distractions” in his training camp when Roberto Garcia left after apparent differences with Viloria’s manager Gary Gittelsohn but felt he “showed that it takes more than that to try to slow me down. I’ll take my team, go back to the gym, work on some of the things I need to work on and come out even stronger in my next fight.”
After his stunning 12th round TKO loss to Carlos Tamara when he was exhausted in the last two rounds, collapsed in his dressing room and had to be rushed to the Makati Medical Center where specialists conducted a series of tests and gave him a clean bill of health, Viloria said “after what happened, mentally I had to get myself back into fighting form, but other than that I feel great. I know I’m going to come back stronger in my next fight and I look forward to that and I’m really determined to come out and look good. The last couple of fights have been tough for me but I learned a lot and I just want to continue.”
Omar Soto speaking through an interpreter said “I came halfway around the world and I expected something a little more fair. I think it was a lot closer in my favor.”
Soto said “after the first four or five rounds I was able to take his shots. He wasn’t as strong and not as big a puncher as I had anticipated. I was a little skeptical of going in first but after I was able to take his shots I decided to go forward and unfortunately he countered. He is very, very fast and I thought it was a very nice, good, even fight.”
In conclusion the likeable Mexican said “with all due respect I love the Filipino people who have been very, very accommodating I thought it was a very close fight. That’s why he (Viloria) is the world champion and I hope to fight him again . I hope Brian gives me a rematch for a world championship.”
Viloria’s fiancée who like Brian is from the Ilocos region which they will visit before returning to Los Angeles said “I am happy, awake and not in a hospital like the last time. Of course I was nervous but I had f aith and confidence in Brian and that he really wanted this. I’ll be 100 percent for him, 200 percent if he wants to and let him do what he wants to do and I’ll stand by his side.