Boxing Done Two Ways at Flyweight This Saturday

By Matt McGrain on November 14, 2012
Boxing Done Two Ways at Flyweight This Saturday
I suspect Brian Viloria will start slowly, taking the measure of the Marquez southpaw jab.

The fans deserve fights like these and the fighters deserve your attention for making the fight happen. So don’t miss it…

In the summer of 2010 I wrote an article about then-WBA minimum-weight champion Roman Gonzalez, speculating upon just how good this beautifully schooled boxing pressure-fighter might become. Then, as now, I regarded him as one of the very best fighters in the world and possibly one who could become great. A senior member of his camp got in touch with me to express his gratitude for such a positive take on Roman’s prospective career and I expressed my hopes that he would deliver on his potential. Since then, Gonzalez has become a two-weight strapholder, adding the WBA trinket at light-fly, on paper a commendable achievement. In reality, Gonzalez has stalled badly.

The WBA, to whom Gonzalez seems joined at the hip, are partially to blame, sanctioning journeyman after journeyman as viable defenses of their bauble; but even when left to his own devices Gonzalez has failed to show any ambition, dispatching Stiven Monterrosa in the third round of a scheduled ten in a non-title fight up at flyweight last month. Embarrassingly, Monterrosa had never taken part in a fight over the ten-round distance and has never beaten an opponent with a winning record. He had prepared for Gonzalez by knocking out 0-14 Francisco Herrera, a fighter who had been stopped in all but one of his professional contests.

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that this pattern is set to continue as Gonzalez (32-0 with 28 stoppages) is scheduled to meet Juan Francisco Estrada (22-1 with 18 stoppages) in defense of both his strap and his status as #1 light-flyweight in the Transnational Rankings (TRB) this Saturday in Los Angeles. Again, on paper, Estrada’s record appears reasonably respectable, but when we consider that he has boxed over the ten-round distance only a handful of times and that he has yet to lace ‘em up for the championship distance at all, it becomes clear that this is a fighter still serving his apprenticeship and certainly not a fighter worthy of challenging for even a title as meaningless as the WBA’s.

Now the good news.

Billed as a “co-feature”, Gonzalez and Monterrosa will really be boxing on an undercard and the main event of the evening sees two of the best flyweights in boxing meet in a potential Fight of the Year candidate, certainly the most attractive fight not involving Gonzalez that can be made below 112 lbs. Brian Viloria (31-3 with 18 knockouts), ranked as the #1 contender by the TRB, and Hernan Marquez (34-2 with 25 knockouts) ranked at #3 will certainly wash out the bad taste in the mouth that Gonzalez-Monterrosa is sure to leave. 

It is also a unification bout of sorts, although the fact that Juan Carlos Reveco seems to be waving around a belt marked WBA takes the polish off that a bit. This may mean that Hernan “Tyson” Marquez has become one of that organization’s ludicrous “super” champions but if it is so, this is the only thing that is ludicrous about him. Marquez is an absolute monster of a fly, one that can bear the weight of such an infamous nickname with ease.

Known best for his two astonishing wins over Luis Concepcion, one of which was perhaps the best fight of 2011, the knockouts dried up in 2012 for Hernan as he met two super-flyweights, settling on each occasion for a 10-round decision, most recently against Fernando Lumacad. This performance was not one of Marquez’s better efforts, but there were circumstances. He was noticeably smaller in the ring and up against an opponent who seemed to me more interested in staying out of trouble than winning the fight. Although the official cards saw it close (a majority decision), I had it clearly to the Mexican champion in spite of the spongy, sapping canvas that did not lend itself to his pressure style. For Marquez is indeed all about pressure, moving to corner his opponents when they attempt to remain elusive, as did Lumacad, boxing and punching with his more aggressive opponents in a way that could easily put one in mind of Roman Gonzalez. He turned in just such a performance in his first celebrated win over Concepcion, climbing off the canvas and swallowing some huge punches whilst grinding his man down to what seems, on repeat viewings, to be an almost inevitable stoppage. 

He was aided in this with punching which can seem surprisingly sharp and explosive when he first unleashes it as his footwork, although finely balanced, can at times appear turgid. Any rounds he did lose against Lumacad tended to be due to inactivity. It seems he can sometimes struggle a little to close the distance on an opponent who knows range, but when he has the same fighter trapped against the ropes or in a corner, the combinations fly with a fluidity that belies that sometimes sluggish pressure. He is in his element when he doesn’t have to look for his man though, as was the case with Concepcion. Any opponent who comes to him will have his hands full, and most of them find themselves walking onto his brutal straight left. A hard puncher with either hand, his left is nevertheless superior to his right on offense as he can be given to clubbing a little with the hook. That right hand is nevertheless crucial on the attack as his insistent, stalking strategy is augmented by a very decent jab. At his very best when he can dispense with that punch it becomes crucial against an opponent who knows how to box and move.

It will be important then against Brian Viloria. The best pure boxer below 112 lbs. now that Calderon has retired, “The Hawaiian Punch” carries a nifty dig himself, as Giovani Segura discovered when the Mexican tough ran into what was nothing less than a brick wall at the end of last year. Segura was favored to win that fight and very early it looked like he might as he tracked down the Filipino with some very neat, hard body punching. But Viloria did not panic. Instead he set about controlling range with a nice, stabbing jab before taking over the fight itself with his excellent handspeed and superb judgment. An accurate puncher, Viloria also chose the right moments to attack and Segura was given few genuine countering opportunities. When he lost control of distance or the action, he became mobile, moving out of the danger zone forcing his opponent to choose between rushing and disengaging—and Viloria timed Segura’s rushes beautifully. An often mercurial defense was the final piece of the puzzle in what, by the end, was a one-sided drubbing as Calderon’s conqueror began to wilt under the heavy shots of a more rugged box-puncher. Viloria found almost every missing brick in the Segura defense and filled it with leather.

The styles, then, mesh almost perfectly. Assuming a classic performance from each, we should see Marquez advance and Viloria give ground—but not too much. I suspect Viloria will start slowly, taking the measure of the Marquez southpaw jab. Both are capable of showing superb variety on offense but it is Viloria who improvises more succinctly—check out the five-punch combination Segura throws at 1:15 of the second round of their fight and the left hook Brian produces from nowhere after slipping every single one of those punches if you don’t believe me—and this may tell. I can see Viloria breaking the early pattern in the fight with some unexpected punches and then shoe-shining his way to rounds behind these punches in the second quarter of the fight. This will force Marquez to up the tempo at which point a real fight may break out.

If Viloria is allowed to find his rhythm, I don’t think the Mexican can rely upon his natural pressure to get the job done. He’ll have to commit himself to being hit to land his own punches and key for him is going to be the straight left. If he lands this punch flush it is a game-changer, if not quite a king-maker. For his own part, I suspect that Viloria will need to get his chopping left-hook across at mid-range. It’s a sneaky, hurtful punch which will keep Marquez honest and is also the shot most likely to deliver the knockout. If Marquez gets sloppy with his own hook, that becomes a real possibility.

In fact, it is my gun-to-the-head pick. I suspect that the styles favor Viloria. I think that Marquez may get drawn onto some pretty hard stuff even as he is banking rounds, which he may do early. The fact that Marquez boxes with pressure but that that pressure is not particularly fast will allow Viloria to put an eye on his man and enable him to set up those counters and take control of the distance. As his confidence in his speed advantage grows, I think he will meet Marquez’s aggression with some risks of his own and I’m guessing that those risks will pay off. Ahead on the cards but not by enough to coast I think he’ll put Marquez in trouble late and stop him on his feet, much as a giant Nonito Donaire did in 2010.

Of course Marquez is an extremely tough individual and if he can stay busy, stay in range and rob Viloria of his hook by staying disciplined with his own right hand and bank those early rounds, he can perhaps keep one step ahead—either way it is a mouth-watering prospect.

Also mouth-watering is the notion that Roman Gonzalez is finally ready to step up, in both weight and class and come to flyweight to match the winner of this bout, that the very reason he is on the undercard is as an appetizer for an even more thrilling main event somewhere down the line. It seems an obvious one and it is also a very real possibility as either Marquez or Viloria will emerge both as #1 in the division (with all due love and respect to lineal and TBR champion Toshiyuki Igarashi) and WBA flyweight champion. Gonzalez’s obsession with boxing for the WBA has done nothing but hurt him so far, but perhaps, here, it can help him. One can’t imagine such a loyal subject having any difficulty being installed as the #1 contender one weight up and the idea of Gonzalez matching either one of these men is a dream—and a new promise of fulfillment of potential that seems on the verge of being squandered.

But that is for next year. Much more important is this Saturday night, a night on which Gonzalez is once again getting it wrong and Marquez and Viloria are getting it so right.

“These are the kind of fights every fighter wants,” says Viloria.

“I will do whatever it takes,” offers Marquez.

The fans deserve fights like these and the fighters deserve your attention for making the fight happen.

So don’t miss it.

Matt McGrain is a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings board.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Brian Viloria returns to Wildcard Gym

Brian Viloria Vs Giovani Segura Full Fight-Decmeber 11,2011

Brian Viloria to fight Hernan Marquez

Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion Part1 [2011-04-02]

Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion Part2 [2011-04-02]

Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion Part3 [2011-04-02]

Hernan Marquez vs Luis Concepcion II

2012-10-06 Roman Gonzalez vs Stiven Monterrosa

Román Chocolatito Gonzalez Vs Juan Francisco "Gallo" Estrada. Promo

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  1. nick 03:41pm, 11/17/2012

    The problem that Mr. Gonzalez has are many. First of course is that there are so many different boxing organizations, four to be exact. But this has further been compounded in his case, and in the case of many fighers in this lower weight. The first problem is that at one time there was only a flyweight division, not two divisions below it. This has further diluted the talent pool and made titles less meaningful. It is great that Marquez and Viloria are fighting, though that it is being shown on WEALTH TV, how many will be able to watch it, shows that the American market, certainly the most influential still in boxing is not as interested in this category. Hopefully for Mr. Gonzalez, he can hope for a fight with the winner of the main event. Only with what can be seen as big fights, will Mr. Gonzalez gain the credibility and marketability that he may well deserve

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