By Graham Houston
The little fighters just don’t get the respect they deserve. For instance there’s a tremendous fight in Manila today between Brian Viloria, the Hawaiian-born fighter of Filipino ancestry, and Mexico’s Giovani Segura but it has attracted little attention and most sportsbooks aren’t offering odds. I just don’t understand this. The fight is a battle of champions: Viloria defending his flyweight title while Segura, a champion at junior flyweight, moves up four pounds in weight.
Segura is the favourite after a run of nine consecutive stoppage wins, including two crunching victories over Ivan Calderon, whose superb boxing skills weren’t enough against the relentless attack of the bigger, stronger Segura. Tonight (early Sunday morning in the Philippines), Segura is the betting favourite but faces a difficult task. Viloria is going to have the crowd on his side and he is a skilled boxer and the strongest and hardest hitting fighter that Segura has faced.
Viloria, 31, scored a dramatic victory in a Philippines-Mexico clash in Manila in 2009 when he knocked out Ulises Solis in the 11th round. He was the underdog in that fight, too, but he produced perhaps his greatest performance. Viloria outpunched and outfought Solis before crumpling him to the canvas with a big right hand in a spectacular finish to become a two-time champ at junior flyweight.
It was a shock, then, when Viloria lost the title on a last-round stoppage against the Colombian, Carlos Tamara, in Manila in January 2010. In front on two judges’ scorecards after 11 rounds, Viloria suddenly seemed overcome by exhaustion in the final round.
Perhaps Viloria drained himself a bit too much making weight for that bout. He moved up to 112 pounds and won the WBO title in July by outpointing the tough and aggressive Julio Cesar Miranda. Viloria boxed and moved beautifully for much of the fight but he seemed to tire down the stretch. Miranda swept the last three rounds on two judges’ cards but it was too little and too late.
It is highly likely that Viloria will be outboxing and outscoring Segura in the early rounds, too. I can picture him making Segura miss, countering him and even making him look clumsy and amateurish at times. Will Viloria be able to keep it up for all 12 rounds, though?
Segura, 29, is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport because he will keep coming forward and throwing punches in every round, prepared to take punches in order to position himself to deliver his own strength-sapping blows. For Segura, attack is the best form of defence. He fights equally well in the southpaw or orthodox postures, switching stances fluidly.
I think that at various points in the bout is Viloria going to have to stand and fight with Segura because the pressure will be so great that he won’t be able to maintain an in-and-out, hit-and-get-away style of boxing, and whenever Segura can get Viloria in front of him in an exchange I think he will be landing the sort of punches that will gradually erode Viloria’s resistance.
Yet we don’t know how well Segura can take the punches of a world-class 112-pounder. If Viloria can hurt Segura and slow him down, Viloria can win — we won’t know until the fight starts. My suspicion, though, is that the fresher Segura is going to be a bit too forceful and insistent for a champion who has been boxing professionally for almost a decade, after a long and distinguished amateur career. I can envisage Segura catching up with Viloria in the later rounds, perhaps around the 11th and quite likely while trailing on the scorecards.