by Cliff Rold
A good sign for any pay-per-view show is when an anticipated main event provides a co-feature capable of stealing the show.
Roman Gonzalez-Brian Viloria is a good sign for Saturday’s Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux card (HBO PPV, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST). We have two of the biggest punching, and most accomplished, little men of this generation. It’s hard to go wrong.
Is the timing perfect? Had these two squared off after winning both ends of a memorable card in 2012, it might have been even better from a pure fistic perspective. That night, Gonzalez defended the WBA 108 lb. title in a classic war with Juan Francisco Estrada and Viloria unified the WBA and WBO 112 lb. titles with a knockout of Hernan “Tyson” Marquez. Had they faced off immediately after that, maybe we get an even better fight than we might get this weekend.
Since that night, Viloria has lost his titles to Estrada and won four straight against opposition whose strength was in keeping him active. Gonzalez has continued his unbeaten ways, moving to flyweight to capture the lineal crown from Akira Yaegashi and defending twice.
So, yes, maybe the fight would have been better in 2013. In terms of audience, the timing couldn’t be better. After impressing the Los Angeles faithful with a destruction of Edgar Sosa earlier this year, Gonzalez has a chance to impress the city that doesn’t sleep.
Will he exit as top of the heap?
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: Lineal/TBRB/Ring/WBC World Flyweight (2014-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBA Minimumweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBA Light Flyweight (2011-13, 5 Defenses)
Weight: 111.4 lbs.
Hails from: Managua, Nicaragua
Record: 43-0, 37 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 12-0, 8 KO (13-0, 9 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 7 (Yutaka Niida TKO4; Katsunari Takayama UD12; Ramon Garcia KO4; Juan Francisco Estrada UD12; Francisco Rodriguez Jr. TKO7; Akira Yaegashi TKO9; Edgar Sosa TKO2)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Flyweight (2005-06, 1 Defense); IBF Light Flyweight (2009-10, 1 Defense); WBO Flyweight (2011-13, 3 Defenses); WBA “Super” Flyweight (2012-13)
Weight: 111.4 lbs.
Hails from: Waipahu, Hawaii
Record: 36-4, 22 KO, 1 KOBY, 2 No Contests
Rankings: #3 (Ring), #4 (ESPN, TBRB), #6 (BoxingScene, Boxrec),
Record in Title Fights: 8-4, 5 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 11 (Gilberto Keb Baas KO11; Eric Ortiz KO1; Jose Antonio Aguirre UD12; Omar Nino L12, NC12, TKO9; Edgar Sosa L12; Ulises Solis KO11; Carlos Tamara TKO by 12; Julio Cesar Miranda UD12; Giovanni Segura TKO8; Tyson Marquez TKO10; Juan Francisco Estrada L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Gonzalez B; Viloria B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Gonzalez A; Viloria A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Gonzalez B; Viloria B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Gonzalez A; Viloria B+
The best reason for fans to tune into the lighter weight classes: potential for action is often higher. The potential for action is certainly there in this clash. It comes here with a high degree of skill. Viloria, who represented the US on the 2000 Olympic team, has used that skill to stay vibrant in weight classes that are hard pressed for longevity. On Saturday, his edge in hand speed will be his biggest asset.
While recent outings have suggested Viloria may have lost a little on his fastball, he still explodes to target as well as anyone in the division. His sharp jab sets up a dangerous right hand. His left hook remains potent as well. He can throw either coming forward or as a lethal counter shot. In his fight with Marquez, he was dazed a few times only for counters to bail him out of trouble and put Marquez on the floor.
It’s the kind of power Gonzalez arguably hasn’t seen yet, making it one of the most intriguing elements of the fight. What happens when Viloria lands a bomb? Can he put Gonzalez down? If so, can he keep him there?
The same questions might be asked of Viloria if he gets caught. His lone stoppage loss didn’t come off a big knockout shot. It came by way of lost legs in a long, physical fight he was leading. Viloria, fighting for the last time at 108 lbs., appeared to hit a wall.
He hasn’t had a similar experience four pounds higher. Questions remain about his gas tank. He started well against Estrada but faded down the stretch, something also true in previous stumbles with Nino and Sosa. Gonzalez is going to be there for every round they have and rarely takes one off. He has both explosive power and consistent offense.
That’s an advantage to Gonzalez. Of the two, he is the more fluid fighter on attack and he puts in heavy leather at different speeds. Besides some late fades, Viloria has seemed sometimes to keep his guns in the holster too long. Under fire, he sometimes waits rather than just letting his hands go. Against Gonzalez, that’s the sort of failing that can eventually turn into hard-to-break offensive momentum.
Defensively, neither man is unhittable. How hard a target Gonzalez is sometimes comes down to what he sees coming back. He blocks and rolls effectively but if he doesn’t respect the power of a foe he can sometimes just go on offense full tilt. It would be a mistake to ever do that with Viloria. Viloria has good feet and boxes well when he needs to.
In terms of intangibles, this might be a night where Viloria’s career trends are in his favor. He sometimes looks off when he’s expected to sail. As a perceived underdog, he has been superlative. With his back to the wall against Ulises Solis, still rebuilding from the Tamara loss against Segura, and as the older man versus Marquez, Viloria was a knockout winner every time.
Conversely, Gonzalez has thus far been the sort of fighter who thrives when pressure is higher. On the road for title wins against Niida and Yaegashi, he was an awesome study in violence. Appearing on HBO for the first time, he eviscerated the usually durable Sosa. In a word, so far he’s been a gamer. He’ll need all that game against a Viloria who approaches a night where a win could ultimately define his lengthy career.
The pick here is the same as it would have been had they met in 2013. At his best, Viloria is a very good fighter. Only one of his losses has come to anything less than a top class professional at his weights. Gonzalez is just a little bit better. He’s more consistent offensively, younger, and has a more varied attack. He’ll have to be cautious early and box, but Gonzalez can do that. He has to because if he lets Viloria get off early, the challenger’s chances improve. Anything Viloria can do to slow Gonzalez down or make him think is a point in the veteran’s favor.
The thinking here is both men will land in the first six but Gonzalez will land just enough more to set up a takeover of the fight in the second half. A stoppage in the final third of the fight is a possible outcome. If Viloria survives, he’ll be on the wrong end of a clear decision for the disciple of Alexis Arguello. It should be fan friendly either way.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 75-20
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]