[SPORTS] Brian Viloria - Filipino Boxer from Hawaii
- He's Learned No Man Is an Island in Fight Game
Height: 5' 4"
Born: November 24, 1980
Birthplace: Honolulu, HI
Nickname: "Hawaiian Punch"
Boxer Brian Viloria weighs 108 pounds, about the same as George
Foreman's left leg.
He fights in a weight class called light-flyweight. That's like
being a small miniature Chihuahua.
He was champion of the world, or at least that part recognized by
the World Boxing Council, until Aug. 10, when another small
miniature Chihuahua, Omar Nino of Mexico, had more bite than
Viloria's bark. Nino won a unanimous decision, taking away Viloria's
title in his second defense, at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.
For Viloria, a Hawaiian who spent some of his young life in the
Philippines and who may be among the world's better athletes pound
for pound, as they say in boxing the defeat was no small trauma.
Nor was it the end of a roller-coaster ride he has been on for the
last 15 months.
On May 28, 2005, Viloria won a match at Staples Center against an
undistinguished Mexican fighter named Ruben Contreras.
In the middle of the fight, Contreras,
bleeding from the nose, stopped fighting, turned away from Viloria
and walked to his corner, telling the referee he was done. Leaving
the ring, he said he felt faint and he soon collapsed, experiencing
Doctors later said that, had he not been so close to a hospital and
had emergency personnel not reacted quickly, Contreras would have
By the time Viloria was told what had happened, as he stepped out of
the shower after the fight, Contreras was having brain surgery.
Suddenly, Viloria, the "Hawaiian Punch" from the city of Waipahu,
which overlooks Pearl Harbor, was not sure his career goals were the
same as they had been an hour earlier.
He started boxing when he was 6, partly because his younger brother,
Gaylord, who now stands 6 feet and weighs 250, beat him up a lot.
Their father, Ben, took Brian to a gym for lessons.
Later, squeezing boxing into a high school schedule that included
state competition in wrestling and tennis, plus performing in the
band he plays woodwinds Viloria became a world-class amateur
When it came time for college, he found an Olympic program for
boxers at Northern Michigan, certainly the last choice of schools
for somebody from Hawaii. But Viloria took off for Marquette, Mich.,
in the state's Upper Peninsula, where he quickly discovered a
pressing need for gloves and headgear the warm kind.
He stayed 2 1/2 years, had nearly 300 amateur fights, won all but
eight or nine of those, won the world championship in 1999 by
beating an Olympic gold medalist, and then became the first of
several Americans who suffered controversial defeats at the 2000
Sydney Olympics when he lost in the second round to Frenchman Brahim
Asloum, the eventual gold medalist.
The score was 8-6 and the bout was controversial in that neither
fighter was given points for body punches, of which Viloria threw
"He came right out with his hands high, inviting body punches,"
Viloria says. "So I took the opening."
He was the last of that Olympic crop to become a pro, but when Bob
Arum and Top Rank signed him and he quickly grew in reputation, if
not in stature, there was talk that he could be the next Michael
Carbajal, the only fighter under 125 pounds to ever fight for a
But the Contreras fight nearly ended all that. Asked if he ever
would have climbed back in the ring if Contreras hadn't climbed out
of his hospital bed, Viloria grimaced and shook his head.
The night of Sept. 10, 2005, brought Viloria back to the Staples
Center boxing ring. Before he stepped into it, he walked over and
hugged a man sitting at ringside.
"I told Ruben, 'Thank God you are here,' " Viloria says. "I told him
I would dedicate the fight to him."
The bell rang and, exactly 2 minutes 59 seconds later, or one second
shy of the end of the first round, Viloria was ready to climb back
out. He had caught WBC champion Eric Ortiz, who was expected to give
him a full 12 rounds, with a straight right knockout punch. Weeks
after nearly quitting, Viloria was a world champion.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer handed him the microphone, Viloria
announced that he had dedicated the fight to Contreras, and then
spoke in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines.
Boxing in the feature event that night was Manny Pacquiao, the
Filipino who is bigger in his country than the pope is in Rome. Most
Filipinos had not known of Viloria's connection, but many were tuned
in to see Pacquiao. Now, Viloria is assistant pope.
After a few days, Viloria went back to the Philippines to see his
grandfather, Oscar, 72, who was dying of colon cancer. He took his
title belt to his grandfather, who had said he would hang on until
he saw it. Six hours later, Oscar Viloria died.
Viloria defended his title in February, breaking his hand in the
process. But when he took his 19-0 record into the boxing ring in
the hockey arena at the Orleans, nearly everybody expected him to
skate through easily. Nino was the WBC's 10th-ranked contender.
Afterward, a dazed Viloria said he'd just fought a bad fight. No
He feared, though, that the loss would cost him a rematch. But a
week later, Viloria got the word that Arum was sticking with him and
that a rematch had been arranged for either Nov. 16 at the Orleans
or as part of the Pacquiao-Erik Morales undercard two nights later
at the Thomas & Mack Center.
So, for Viloria, the roller-coaster ride continues.
"Been quite a year," he says.
The Hawaiian Punch Speaks out: An Interview with Brian Viloria
Interview by Tom
Brian Viloria was one of the most talked about fighters coming out
of the 2000 Olympics. His exciting hard punching style drew
comparisons to Michael Carbajal. At only 24 years of age Viloria is
looking solid right now in the flyweight division, undefeated in 16
appearances and ranked #2 by the World Boxing Council (WBC), #3 by
the World Boxing Association (WBA), #10 by the International Boxing
Federation (IBF) and #6 by the World Boxing Organization (WBO).
He is coming off an impressive 7th round KO victory, his 10th early
night, over Angel Priolo, (30-1, 20 KOs) in Los Angeles, a fight he
took on three days notice, because it was a shot to fight on HBO
Latino. Viloria was nice enough to talk to me after a recent
training session in Hollywood, California. Here's what he had to
Dickey: Who are you looking to fight next?
Viloria: I'm looking at fighting one of the world champions in the
108 pound division. I'm dropping down in weight from 112 to 108, and
I'm feeling really good at this weight.
Dickey: In your last fight you defeated Angel Priolo on three days
notice, what were the circumstances behind that fight?
Viloria: He was a very tough guy. I had a fight scheduled on
Showtime that got cancelled. I then took a week off, because I
didn't think I was going to fight again until next year or this
year. Then two or three days before the fight in Los Angeles
started, one of the fighters pulled out, and I got a call and they
said we want you to fight, and it will be on HBO Latino. I couldn't
turn that down. I got the call on a Monday and the fight was
scheduled for Thursday night.
Dickey: Would you like to fight Vic Darchinyan, who just upset Irene
Pacheco for the IBF Flyweight title?
Viloria: Yes, he keeps calling me out, he thinks he has the edge
over me right now. He came here and sparred with me a while back,
and afterwards he claimed he kicked my butt, but I don't remember
him being able to even hit me. I think that a world champion calling
a challenger out is kind of unheard of, usually it's the other way
around. I'm looking forward to that potential fight, especially
since Arce moved up to 112. I was hoping to get a title at 108, and
move it up to 112 and fight Vic and any one of the world champions.
Dickey: What were your main goals when you got into Boxing?
Viloria: My main goal is to leave a mark in the lighter weight
divisions. That was one and still is one of my main goals. A lot of
the attention gets drawn to the larger weight divisions, not since
Michael Carbajal has the 108 pound division or other light divisions
been really recognized. I'm trying to bring that back, I'm trying to
say that these lighter divisions warrant the same type of
recognition as the heavier weights. A world championship was another
big goal of mine when I got started also.
Dickey: You being a 2000 Olympian, and having gone through the
transition from amateur Olympian to professional, what advice would
you give some of the guys like Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell or Vicente
Escobedo from the 2004 class as they start that same transition?
Viloria: A lot of guys are trying to jump in and get contracts as
quickly as possible. I would tell them to just take their time, and
feel these people out, it's the pro business now. Amateur times are
over, and the pro game is more business than actual fighting. A lot
of things take place in court rooms, and you have things like breach
of contracts, it's a whole new thing. I would tell them just take
their time. Actually Vicente Escobedo is my roommate now, and I tell
him to just take his time. Don't just jump into a contract because
it sounds good; do your homework, find out what accomplishments
these people have and what credentials these people have. It was
like this for us in 2000, there was a cesspool of managers and
promoters trying to get guys to sign up, and a lot of the fighters
just jumped on without knowing what the contracts really meant. For
a lot of these guys, I would tell them just take your time, find the
right trainers, find the right promoters, and find the right
managers that's going to help you and show the right road to take,
and who will benefit you. Because a lot of promoters are scum and
sharks, and they will try to milk the fighters as much as they can,
and when they're done they will just throw the fighter to the side.
That's the sad truth.
Dickey: How has it been working with Freddie Roach?
Viloria: Freddie's been great, I've been working with Freddie since
the beginning of my career. He tells me the right things at the
right time. He's not one of those trainers that's just going to
scream at your face, he's not one of those guys. He's going to tell
you what to do at exactly the right time, the right place, and how
to do it, and what will happen if you do accomplish it. He keeps me
focused, and he's one of the guys that I highly respect in the game.
You can't have two opponents in the ring, you can't have your
trainer fighting with you too. Freddie is a man, there is no other
way I can say it, he's trained a lot of world champions. He's been
there and experienced a lot of things and he brings a lot of
experience to my corner. He knows exactly what to say, because he
has been in the ring and was a fighter himself. So he is able to
relate to his fighters as a trainer and as a fighter. So, I highly
Dickey: You kind of touched on this already, but who are some guys
that you see and say I want to fight him?
Viloria: My plans right now are fighting at 108, and fighting world
champions there. Then I would like to go back to 112, and fight any
of the four world sanctioning body champions. Whether it be with
Vic, or Arce, or even Pongsaklek (Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: WBC
Flyweight champ). Just trying to find the right match, then you got
to go through the business aspect of it. Right now I'm just trying
to get myself in shape and get the right match. So, those are in my
plans for the future.
Dickey: After you turned pro following the 2000 Olympics, you drew
comparisons to Michael Carbajal. How did you feel about these
Viloria: To tell you the truth, I was flattered. But, at the same
time I know that those are big shoes to fill. Because, Michael
Carbajal came back with a medal, and he proved himself. I came back
with a 2 point loss to the guy who won the gold medal. Having people
say that, actually motivated me to become a great pro. It helped me
in staying focused, and going into the ring and doing what I have to
do. It motivated me in thinking if Michael Carbajal could do it,
then I could do it, nobody else could stop me but myself. When
people make that comparison, I feel flattered, but I realize it's a
daunting task, and I wanted to go in there and prove that I would be
a great professional. I feel I proved that I was a great amateur,
and now in the professional game I felt I had to re learn the whole
sport, and prove again that I am one of the best fighters out there
in the division.
Dickey: If there was one thing that you could change about Boxing,
inside or outside of the ring, what would it be?
Viloria: I would get rid of the dirtiest promoters and managers out
there that have taken advantage of some of the great fighters. If
there was one thing that I could change, it would be that. I would
change the humanity of the sport. Being in the sport and watching
people do what they do, like robbing fighters, and taking more of
their cut than they should have... It's a really, really nasty
sport, at least that side of it. That's something I would really
like to see changed. I know it's probably like asking for world
peace, but if I had to pick one thing, that would be it. You can't
feed all the children, you can't help all the sick, you can't stop
all the wars and at the same time you can't take out all the bad
promoters and managers out there. Unfortunately, they will always be
there. But, if there was one thing I could change that would be it.