Photos by Sumio Yamada
ULISES SOLIS vs BRIAN VILORIA
Brian Viloria, although known as the “Hawaiian Punch”, has always been proud of his Filipino ancestry, and on Saturday he fights in the home nation of his ancestors when he challenges Mexico’s Ulises Solis for the IBF 108-pound title.
The fight, part of a Mexico versus Philippines PPV show, is a great opportunity for Viloria. He lost narrowly to Edgar Sosa in his last title fight, but that defeat doesn’t look so bad considering Sosa’s superb run of form.
In his last fight, Viloria was at his explosive best when he destroyed Benji Garcia in two rounds. Garcia wasn’t expected to win but he had been the distance with heavy hitting Giovanni Segura, ex-champ Eric Ortiz and unbeaten Raul Martinez (who fights in the co-main event on Saturday), so it was an impressive job of work for Viloria to blow him away.
When Viloria is at the top of his form he is an exciting, destructive fighter. He has had lapses, though, fights in which he has been hesitant and has allowed the other man to outwork him. This happened in Viloria’s loss to Omar Nino Romero. For round after round, Viloria waited to land a big punch, and all the while the underdog Romero was popping away with jabs and quick punches.
In the rematch, Viloria was much more aggressive, knocking down Romero twice, and I thought he had done enough to avenge the previous loss. The judges had the fight a draw, though, and now the result appears in the records as a “no decision” because the Mexican boxer failed his post-fight drug test.
Since then Viloria has won five fights in a row, just marking time, really, as he has awaited another world title opportunity.
Viloria is a world-class boxer-puncher and should never be underestimated, but Solis is a formidable champion and he is the favourite. The 27-year-old Mexican boxer has lost just once, a majority decision against Nelson Dieppa five years ago. I thought that Dieppa deserved the verdict with his heavier punches, but Solis scored well with jabs and he was bitterly upset — almost disbelieving, in fact — when the decision went against him.
I believe that Solis has improved considerably since that fight. He looks stronger and he seems to be punching harder. Solis is a stylish, speedy boxer with a lovely left hand but he showed he can be a hard-hitting aggressor, too, when he came back from a very shaky sixth round to knock out the Filipino banger Rodel Mayol in the eighth. I thought that Solis looked the complete fighter that night. He boxed cleverly, of course, but he was also punching hard to the body and ripping in left hooks down and up, and he ended the fight with a classic one-two.
A problem with Solis, though, is that he seems to get cut all to easily. He was cut over both eyes in a spirited draw against local fighter Omar Salado in Tijuana (I had Solis winning), and he had cuts over the eyes as early as the fourth round in his win over Glenn Donaire in a fight that I thought was closer than the judges had it.
Solis seems to take cuts in his stride and the quality of his boxing doesn’t seem to suffer unduly, but obviously he can do without this sort of handicap.
Viloria, 28, seems to be the puncher in the fight, and I would think that he will seek to keep on top of Solis as much as he can and try to slow him down with body shots. Solis is capable of producing masterful boxing, but Viloria is a skilled fighter, too, and I expect him to get right into the fight and possibly be in charge early with his fast, hard hitting.
Solis will find himself under pressure, but I think that he has the talent and toughness to come through some torrid moments and gradually assert himself with the jabs, hooks and combinations. He seems to be a little quicker than Viloria, a bit slicker, and overall just slightly the better fighter.
In Viloria’s loss to Sosa he was doing very well early but faded in the home straight, with the Mexican fighter sweeping the last four rounds on all three judges’ cards. Viloria was handicapped by a badly swollen eye towards the end of the fight, but Sosa outlasted and outpunched him in the crucial closing rounds. As well as Viloria fought that night, he couldn’t quite get the job done, and even though the Philippines setting is to his advantage I see a similar sort of fight evolving on Saturday, with Solis withstanding an early onslaught, staying cool and composed and jabbing and countering his way to a close victory on points.