No quit in Viloria, but maybe it's time
By Ferd Lewis
It was a game — but clearly exhausted — Brian Viloria who answered the bell to open the 12th round of the International Boxing Federation light flyweight championship bout in Manila Friday night.
To have glimpsed the determined, though doomed, effort on YouTube was to understand Viloria put the last gasps of his flickering energy and all of his heart into attempting to retain the crown before referee Bruce McTavish wisely stopped it 1 minute, 45 seconds into the round.
The question now, in the wake of the stunning technical knockout loss to Carlos Tamara, is: How much of that resolve does Viloria have for a return?
If Viloria decides to come back to a sport he first walked into more than 20 years ago in the Waipahu Recreation Center gym, you hope it is because of what comes from within and not because he feels compelled to prove to anyone else.
Because there really isn't anything that has to be validated or underlined, not now. Viloria could call it a career and it would be one of the most accomplished fight resumes in Hawai'i history. Nobody could begrudge the two-time world champion, former U.S. Olympian and much-honored ex-amateur titlist anything after a trophy-filled career that began at age 9 with the Waipahu Boxing Club.
He will be 30 this year, has plans to marry and can walk away from the sport better than most of his peers on so many fronts. He is intelligent and articulate, is college-educated and has made a good living. He need not have to hang on attempting to squeeze the last nickel out of the sport.
Meanwhile, the knockout punch that often sent his opponents to the canvas and Viloria home early in a 26-3 (15 knockouts) career hasn't been there of late. Viloria has made KO victims of just three of his last 12 opponents and has gone double-figure rounds seven times.
If reports from the Philippines are true after a post-fight hospital visit, he also has his health, which is a victory right there for someone with more than 100 fights as a pro and amateur. Until this one he'd never lost a bout stopped by the referee . And, except for the beating his hands have taken delivering them, he's suffered few major injuries.
Which is, perhaps, why his trainer, Robert Garcia, a former IBF champion, told reporters in Manila: "Right now, I'm thinking maybe he should retire." And why his cornerman, Ruben Gomez, was reported to have seconded the suggestion.
The last time Viloria mounted a comeback, following the loss of his World Boxing Council light flyweight title, it took him eight fights, two and a half years, no small amount of dogged persistence and the ebst efforts of his manager, Gary Gittelsohn, to put himself in position to win another crown.
At least twice before in his pro career Viloria has had to look deep inside and take stock of his commitment. Once when he lost and also when he stopped Ruben Contreras, who had to undergo emergency brain surgery. Both times Viloria came back strong.
But was Friday night's loss the last chapter in an accomplished career for the Waipahu native? That is something no one — none of his handlers or fans — can decide for him.
The answer to that will have to come from the same heart that pushed Viloria out into the ring for that 12th round as if it was his last round.