It's true. The Brian Viloria vs. Hernan Marquez card on WealthTV just didn't get the same type of pre-fight hype and attention as other cards that happened this weekend. And perhaps it made sense, as the other guys were heavier, have more popular names and sell more tickets. But some of us knew. Others as well.
In what may wind up being the very best top-to-bottom televised boxing card of the year, fans were dodging punches all over the place just to get a look at the action, which was excellent.
Viloria and Marquez engaged in a momentum-shifting, tough 10 rounds and change of power punching that left both men exhausted, but only Viloria with his glove raised. And in the co-feature, Roman Gonzalez skirmished back and forth against Juan Francisco Estrada over the 12 round distance, and very entertainingly.
Brian Viloria, who left the Los Angeles Sports Arena with a 32-3 (19 KO) 1 NC, 1 ND record, fought tooth and nail to get his 10th round stoppage win and unify the WBA and WBO belts at flyweight, despite what shorthand accounts might lead one to believe.
Though it was Viloria who scored all of the three knockdowns, one got the sense that he was tiring quickly and that momentum was clearly shifting away from him when he managed to flatten Marquez, bringing about the end in the 10th.
A hooking attack served Viloria well in the 1st round, as he caught Marquez with both hands to the body and he let his hands go a bit more than he tends to do otherwise. Looking to set traps, Marquez went to the ropes and eventually caught Vilora with a few blows before getting clipped hard himself with a right hand that put him down in a heap. Up on shaky stems, Marquez was content to hear the bell. Back to work in the 2nd, Viloria caught him with some hooks and a follow up right hand that woke Marquez up. Always game, Marquez fired back and was again walked back by Viloria's sharper shots.
Round 3 opened up with Viloria again going downstairs and moving inside on Marquez. A left uppercut from Marquez' southpaw stance caught Viloria, but "The Hawaiian Punch" trudged onward, shooting right hands when Marquez swept left, and hooks when he ventured to his right. A few body shots from Viloria made Marquez lash out purely on reflex, then clinch worriedly at the end of the round. Marquez slowed the pace down in the 4th with some holding and a nice overhand left early on, but Viloria went right back downstairs with nasty hooks. Seemingly realizing that he was losing rounds, Marquez hooked his way inside in round 5, moving forward consistently for the first time in the bout. Out of almost nowhere, a right hook from Marquez wobbled Viloria back beside a corner, and what looked like a knockdown was ruled a slip. In trouble and again cornered, Marquez unleashed an onslaught of punches that may have actually allowed Viloria to cover up and recover. Another right hand put Marquez down as "Tyson" appeared to be on the verge of a knockdown himself, and the Mexican got back up to stave off his foe with defensive combinations.
Slowing back down, Viloria kept his distance a bit in the early goings of the 6th, perhaps wary after getting buzzed. Maquez looked to be fine with it, though, and took a breather himself, but not before being shaken up by yet another right hand at the 10 second warning. Sensing an opening, Viloria got his right hand working once more and followed up with more body shots in the 7th round, but Marquez scooted forward to trade again. Leaning to his right, Marquez tried to get his hook working and landed a handful, but Viloria seemed unaffected for the most part, and he resumed his usual attack, finishing strong with slick defense.
To begin round 8, both men carried out respective intelligent strategies, with Viloria setting longer-range traps and Marquez trying to get inside in a safe way. A series of left hands from Marquez made VIloria move, then clinch, and an attempt at hitting Viloria at the back of the head drew a referee warning. More hook-trading led to exchanges and a flurry of right hands from Viloria in the 9th, but Marquez marched forward to apply pressure and bull his man into the ropes. Looking tired, Viloria tried to prance away but was met by Marquez' left hand and more hooks, and the Mexican closed very strong with a big combination.
As Marquez looked to press hard at the beginning of round 10 and throw non-stop for a few seconds, Viloria unleashed a ridiculous left hook that put Marquez flat on his back. Up on nonexistent legs, Marquez tried to fake his way through the next exchange and was pushed to the canvas. Up once more and wobbled badly, Viloria's efforts had Robert Garcia stepping in to save his fighter at 1:01 of the 10th.
This bout needed no titles on the line to make it highly entertaining, but the in-ring action was fitting for the first title unification since the WBA and WBC flyweight belts were split up in 1965. Both Viloria and Marquez gave their all in a fantastic fight worthy of historical distinction.
The easy answer to "So where do both men go from here?" is "Right back to television." Both fighters' efforts were commendable and truthful; both were at least shaken, if not hurt outright, both seized control at some point, and both gave their all.
Brian Viloria in particular continues to march forward in what should be the very late stages of his career. Realistic pickings are slim at flyweight for American fighters looking to fight on television, but wherever he goes, we should follow.
And the same goes for Hernan Marquez, now 34-3 (25 KO). From the outset, he appeared slightly outgunned, a tad out-sized and having to find some strategy that could help him work through an early knockdown and an opponent who wouldn't really let him off the hook. Yet he appeared to be on the verge of taking over when a monster left hook put him down and, for all intents and purposes, out.
In the co-feature of the evening, the battle of the evening emerged between WBA junior featherweight titlist Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and fairly unheralded Juan Francisco Estrada over 12 rounds. Though Gonzalez, in expected fashion, held the advantage in punching power, technique and ferocity, Estrada introduced himself to U.S. boxing fans with a bang, fighting back when caught hard, and finding a way back into the fight when it seemed like he was spiraling out.
Early in round 1, Gonzalez cracked Estrada with a left hook that the latter took surprisingly well. Estrada's backtracking was ineffective, though, and Gonzalez went hard to the body late in the round in an attempt to freeze Estrada up. As Estrada stopped to exchange a bit in round 2, Gonzalez again landed a couple of hard right hands that had Estrada angling to get away. With about a minute left in the stanza, Gonzalez caught Estrada with a combination that forced them to trade against the ropes, and Estrada did surprisingly well.
Body shots and busy combinations from Estrada in the 3rd round opened up the round, and he found a measure of control with his jab and some hand speed in the middle of the ring. But the last half of the round was marked by Gonzalez zeroing in to the body and with short hooks and rights, one of which cut Estrada over his right eye. Backing up to the ropes again in the 4th, Gonzalez strafed his man as Estrada scooted away and found his back on the ropes once more. But to end the round, a series of shots appeared to stun Gonzalez and had him frozen with his guard up. Seizing initiative, Estrada landed a few nice 1-2's that actually backed Gonzalez up early in round 5, but Gonzalez came right back to snatch momentum. And just as Gonzalez looked to firmly be in control, Estrada landed a couple of right hands over the guard, blood streaming from his nose, before taking more licks.
Pressing hard in the 6th, Gonzalez had Estrada looking to find new angles and a more varied attack as he pressured incessantly, landing right hands upstairs that were followed by left hooks to the midsection. And again as it looked like Estrada would be overtaken, he chucked jabs and rights that allowed him to temporarily escape danger.
More pressure from "Chocolatito" led to a warning for low shots, but Estrada's output dipped considerably, allowing Gonzalez to unleash an unholy barrage of shots that swung momentum his way, and very clearly, for the first time in round 7. Early in round 8, a couple of left hands had Estrada falling backwards and trying to stay away. Gonzalez returned to the body, though, and forced more trading from Estrada, making for a fun time for fans, but a rough patch for himself as he ate left hands again and again.
Apparently sick of taking shots while in retreat, Estrada got jabs and right hands working and peppered Gonzalez with shots throughout most of round 9, but again at the end of the round, Gonzalez stormed forward behind left hooks. And in the 10th, both men went toe-to-toe a handful of times, Gonzalez landing harder, but Estrada gaining his own edge with creative angles and movement. Once more Gonzalez closed strong as Estrada appeared to be tiring.
The action remained excellent into the 11th, with Roman Gonzalez leaning into punches with about everything he had, and Estrada returning fire around Gonzalez' guard. In round 12, Gonzalez shook Estrada after a serious exchange, but Estrada came back with a dozen or so uppercuts. Not to be outdone, Gonzalez drove home combinations and the two traded punch after punch until the final bell before a crowd that was forced to its feet for most of the bout.
Scores of 118-110 and 116-112 twice kept Roman Gonzalez' record intact at 34-0 (28 KO), but he was given a very difficult outing from Estrada, who falls to 22-2 (18 KO).
"Chocolatito" showed exactly why he's considered one of the top up-and-comers in the sport, fighting through adversity to show class, and meeting a much tougher than expected foe head-on. And coming out with a nice win.
As for Estrada, it was a showing of grit and even a fair bit of skill, as he found ways to trump technique and skill at times to land tricky punches and score points. Against most guys at 108 lbs., that type of showing wins fights, and he should get an opportunity to prove it soon.
Just before the co-main event was a quicker stoppage at junior middleweight. Octavio Narvaez, 7-13-1 (4 KO) charged at Rodrigo Garcia. 12-0 (7 KO), as if he had somewhere to go after the fight, pushing his foe backwards with sheer aggression, but found himself countered hard throughout the 1st round with hooks and longer right hands. The story was told in round 2, however, as Narvaez resumed his blind pressure and was reversed by a few hooks, and put down hard by a right hand, prompting a referee stoppage at 1:14 as Narvaez scrambled to his feet in protest.
Junior featherweights Drian Francisco, now 24-1-1 (19 KO), and Javier Gallo, 18-6-1 (10 KO), engaged in a back and forth war that resulted in one fighter getting seriously tested, and the other heading to a doctor to patch up his eyes and pride.
Bearing a slight resemblance to Michael Carbajal in appearance, Francisco landed heavy shots between Gallo's attempts at taking the fight inside and winging away, crashing home uppercuts and hooks later in the 1st round. But in round 2, Gallo had success at fighting through nicked eyes, mauling Francisco to the ropes before getting caught a number of huge body shots from the Filipino Francisco. In the 3rd, Gallo constantly pushed Francisco backwards and roughed him up, even landing a series of overhand rights nicely.
A very fight 4th round saw Gallo again looking to drag the fight down a notch while Francisco attempted to move away and find room to punch, occasionally complaining about headbutts and low blows from the hard-charging Tijuana native. Between rounds, Francisco looked like a frustrated guy, and Gallo went right back to marching forward in round 5. Francisco needed room to punch with full power, and he just wasn't getting it -- until the end of the round. Gallo was wobbled by a right hand and a series of body shots with less than a minute to go, and while retreating backwards with a very pained expression on his face and his eyes smeared with blood, referee Lou Moret stepped in to save Javier Gallo's ribs at 2:54 of the 5th.
In the opening bout, welterweights Andy Ruiz and Rufino Flores traded solid shots in a 4 round scrap that was perhaps a bit closer than the still-undefeated Ruiz would have liked.
Ruiz began round 1 patiently looking to find his range with a solid jab and a dose of right hands. Flores used upper body movement to find an opening, but was stunned by a lead right hand from Ruiz, nephew of 122 lb. prospect Erik Ruiz. Trying to be somewhat slick and cute, Flores walked back into a number of rights and lefts while on the ropes in round 2. After catching a left hook that had his nose leaking crimson, Flores opened up with a` few hooks of his own. Still, a hand speed disparity was clear. Regardless, Flores' tenacity put him in position to land a few nice right hands that stunned Ruiz briefly.
Sharpening up some in the 3rd, Ruiz dialed in with left hooks downstairs and lead right hands between jabs. By round's end, Flores found himself retreating more often than not. Flores began quickly in round 4, though, backing Ruiz up with 1-2's while peering through a swollen left eye. Andy Ruiz went back to landing clean hooks upstairs and down, but occasionally caught counter right hands. And once more right before the bell, Ruiz took control.
Judges turned in scores that were likely mathematically correct, but didn't reflect a slightly closer fight where the young gun had to work, in 39-37 twice, and 40-36, all for Andy Ruiz, now 4-0 (2 KO). Rufino Flores' record now stands at 2-5 (0 KO).