‘Hawaiian Punch’ still packs a crunch

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

At age 33, Brian “The Hawaiian Punch” Viloria can still stir and leave his opponent shaken.

In only his second fight after losing the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) flyweight (112 pounds) titles to Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada in April 2013, Viloria recently registered an emphatic fifth round knockout victory over former world title challenger Jose Alfredo Zuniga of Mexico at the Cotai Arena in Macau. Viloria rocked Zuniga as early as the third round with a huge left hook and finished him for good in the fifth stanza with a debilitating left to the body.

While Viloria was the favorite entering the fight, not a few thought it was difficult to bet the entire rent money on the former two-division champion. For one, issues on his conditioning have been hounding Viloria since January 2010, when he faded badly and was stopped in 12 rounds by Carlos Tamara in their duel for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light flyweight (108 pounds) diadem. Viloria was taken straight to the hospital after the fight and while he survived the scare, retirement seemed inevitable.

In addition to the conditioning issue, not a few believed Viloria had succumbed to the “one fight too many” syndrome in boxing. Viloria figured in close to 250 fights as an amateur boxer and was looked upon as shopworn when he turned pro in 2001. When Viloria busted his hand in his very first pro outing, a limited future in the ring was predicted by the experts.

Viloria ended up going the whole nine yards. He won the World Boxing Council (WBC) light flyweight crown in 2005 with a smashing first-round knockout of Eric Ortiz. He lost the belt a year later but captured the IBF’s version of the crown in 2009 with a smashing 11th round knockout of Mexican Ulises Solis.

After yielding the belt to Tamara, Viloria moved up to the flyweight class and unified the WBA and WBO belts in November 2012 by silencing Hernan “Tyson” Marquez.

However, Viloria’s conditioning again betrayed him when he bowed to Estrada in 2013. In a helluva slugfest, Viloria got off to a good start but faded as Estrada kept coming in. Estrada won by decision after Viloria barely escaped a knockout defeat.

Viloria went inactive for the next 11 months before returning in March 2014 against Juan Herrera. Viloria won on points but he looked tentative in the fight. Against Zuniga, Viloria definitely looked much better.

Viloria’s ledger currently stands at 34-4 with 20 knockouts. Despite the win over Zuniga, the windows are still closing in on Viloria’s career. He wants a rematch with Estrada but the Mexican is booked to defend against Giovani Segura in September. Viloria is also fixing his sights on IBF flyweight champ Amnant Ruenroeng (13-0, 5 knockouts), the 34-year-old Thai who won the title early this year against Filipino Rocky Fuentes. Ruenroeng is a stand-up boxer who doesn’t move his head well and is very economical with his punches. The third option for Viloria could be a big money showdown with former Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming of China. The Olympic angle is obvious in such a pairing, Viloria being an accomplished amateur who represented the United States in the 2000 Olympics.

Viloria will have to pick his fights carefully because there are only a few left in his itinerary. The jury is still out on his conditioning and this makes every fight a tough challenge for Viloria. If there is one thing positive about Viloria, it is the fact that his punching power has not abandoned him. The guy still carries a mean stick and he showed it against Zuniga.

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For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.


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