Somewhat buried beneath the ring returns of Adrien Broner and Carl Froch this coming Saturday is an excellent and crucial flyweight unification fight between Brian Viloria and Hernan “Tyson” Marquez.
Viloria (31-3, 18 KO), the reigning WBO flyweight champion and 2000 U.S. Olympian, and WBA boss Marquez (34-2, 25 KO) will headline a card from the Sports Arena in Los Angeles that will importantly showcase a series of compelling fights in some of boxing’s smaller weight classes.
Boxing’s more minuscule fighters are often literally relegated to the shadows of their larger brethren, but Viloria-Marquez—a fight with pound-for-pound implications—is impossible to ignore.
On a Saturday where Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KO) challenges WBC lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco and Carl Froch (29-2, 21 KO) defends his IBF super middleweight title against Yusaf Mack, Viloria-Marquez could very well be the weekend’s most competitive and interesting fight.
What is especially intriguing about Viloria-Marquez is that both fighters are essentially evenly matched in terms of class and skills, and they carry impressive and explosive power—Marquez especially—for the flyweight division. Furthermore, both men enter their unification clash riding positive momentum.
After an outstanding amateur career that included winning gold at the 1999 World Amateur Championships in Houston, Viloria had two brief title reigns at light flyweight in what had, until 2009, amounted to a career defined by flashes of immense potential that had largely remained unfulfilled.
Given his amateur pedigree and rapid ascent through the professional ranks—Viloria won the WBC Youth flyweight title in only his eighth fight and the regional NABF title in his 10th—a long championship reign was expected.
The first of Viloria’s title reigns began when he captured the WBC 108-pound title by stretching Eric Ortiz in a single round. Viloria followed this victory with a unanimous decision title-retaining effort against Jose Antonio Aguirre before running into Omar Nino Romero.
Viloria’s unanimous decision loss to Romero (31-5-2, 13 KO) was the first setback in what ended up being a three-fight winless streak.
In the second bout of this tumultuous stretch, Viloria would have had to settle for a majority draw against Romero in their immediate rematch had the bout not been changed to a “no decision” due to Romero failing a post-fight drug test. Then, in his next fight, Viloria lost a majority decision to Edgar Sosa in a bid for the vacant WBC light flyweight title.
Having gone winless in three consecutive title fights, Viloria’s promising career had sputtered into obscurity—to a certain degree—given how difficult it is for fighters in boxing’s lower weight classes to garner appropriate recognition and exposure.
In 2009, however, Viloria appeared to rebound when he scored an excellent 11th-round knockout over Ulises Solis to capture the IBF light flyweight title. One defense would follow before Viloria lost his title via surprising 12th-round TKO to the underwhelming Carlos Tamara in what amounted to another abrupt end to a seemingly promising title reign.
Despite this inconsistency, Viloria is riding a five-fight winning streak and has emphatically hit his stride as an elite-level prizefighter. Viloria had tested out a move to flyweight between his first and second title reigns, and his recent, permanent jump to 112 pounds has certainly been a factor in his renewed success.
Viloria became a two-division champion with a 2011 decision win over Julio Cesar Miranda, and his two subsequent defenses over Giovani Segura (TKO 8) and old nemesis Romero (TKO 9) were outstanding.
Segura (28-2-1, 24 KO), who had twice decimated all-time great strawweight champion Ivan Calderon, was an especially impressive victory for Viloria. It showed he was able to cope with a strong aggressive puncher and return fire with his own power. Also, his revenge win over Romero suggests that Viloria might have worked through the inconsistency that plagued him earlier in his career.
As for Marquez, since a 2010 TKO loss to Nonito Donaire in a bid for the “interim” WBA 115-pound title, he is 7(5)-0. In only his third fight after losing to Donaire (30-1, 19 KO), Marquez stopped Luis Concepcion in 11 rounds in a bout that featured four knockdowns (Marquez was down once, Concepcion three times).
After scoring a third-round TKO over Edrin Dapudong in his first defense, Marquez again dropped Concepcion (26-3, 20 KO) three times in their rematch, scoring a first-round stoppage in what amounted to a highly impressive title-retaining effort. Marquez has since tested himself against 115-pound fighters in his past two bouts and enters his unification fight with Viloria having settled for consecutive decisions.
That said, both Marquez and Viloria are enjoying dominant stretches at flyweight, and this clash of momentum is one of the fight’s major selling points. If Viloria is the classier boxer, the 24-year-old Marquez’s aggressive style, power punching and southpaw stance render this bout even.
One genuinely remarkable aspect about following Viloria’s career is the resilience he has displayed in rebounding from disappointing setbacks. While Marquez might be more powerful, Viloria, at 31, seems to have finally “gotten it” as a professional, and the fact that his current title reign has included more than one successful defense for the first time will undoubtedly bolster his confidence.
Who will win this Saturday's flyweight showdown?
But what about Viloria-Marquez as it relates to Froch and Broner?
Now, it is obvious and undeniable that both Froch and Broner are bigger mainstream attractions than Viloria or Marquez will ever be, regardless of what transpires this Saturday.
That said, in terms of the fight’s potential and the quality of both participants, Viloria-Marquez easily surpasses Froch-Mack and holds a slight edge over Broner-DeMarco despite Broner’s steady path toward superstardom and DeMarco’s undeniable quality.
Since his participation in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, Froch has faced a murderers’ row of elite opponents, besting the likes of Andre Dirrell, Arthur Abraham and Glen Johnson. Even leading up to the Super Six, Froch had scored consecutive excellent world title victories over Jean Pascal and Jermain Taylor.
Froch’s only losses during this remarkable stretch were a debatable points defeat to Mikkel Kessler in an excellent fight and a clear decision loss to pound-for-pound stalwart Andre Ward in the finals of the Super Six.
Without intending any disrespect to Yusaf Mack (31-4-2, 17 KO), he simply doesn’t measure up as the kind of quality opponent fans and pundits have become accustomed to Froch fighting (and often beating). Current IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud stopped Mack in his only previous bid for a world title. While Mack is no pushover, Froch should score a relatively easy win.
Coming off of a thrilling stoppage win over Lucian Bute in a mild upset, Froch is contractually obligated to travel to Montreal for a rematch with Bute (31-1, 24 KO) after he fights Mack. Given how Bute struggled to defeat Denis Grachev in his comeback fight, the prospect of Froch-Bute II has lost some luster.
So, as great as Froch is, the present and immediate future for him aren’t as exciting as what Viloria and Marquez can offer fight fans. While Viloria-Marquez is a superior matchup to Froch-Mack, the future implications for both flyweight champions are also more intriguing.
Fighting on the undercard of Viloria-Marquez is Nicaraguan banger Roman Gonzalez, a fighter who arguably packs the hardest punch in boxing’s smaller weight classes. In his chief-supporting bout, Gonzalez (33-0, 28 KO) will defend his WBA light flyweight belt against Juan Francisco Estrada.
Already a two-division title-holder, Gonzalez could be looking to parlay a victory over Estrada (22-1, 18 KO) into a shot at the winner of Viloria-Marquez.
Gonzalez has a ridiculous knockout percentage for someone who held a strawweight title, and he is 9-0 in championship fights with six wins coming inside the distance. Should Gonzalez move up to flyweight, a fight against the Viloria-Marquez winner would carry serious pound-for-pound ramifications.
The case of Broner and DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KO) is more nuanced given that it also has the potential to be an exciting and highly competitive fight. After losing to the late Edwin Valero in 2010, DeMarco upset Jorge Linares to win the WBC lightweight title. Recently, DeMarco obliterated John Molina in one round, and he is currently riding a three-fight stoppage streak with each impressive victory having come in a title fight.
As good and exciting as DeMarco is, Broner is expected to beat him. One of boxing’s most interesting cases, the brash, hair-brushing Broner has been anointed as one of the sport’s future (or current, depending on one’s view) superstars without having accomplished much at the championship level.
There are, of course, reasons for this. Dynamic personality aside, Broner appears to be one of boxing’s most naturally-gifted fighters. Blessed with incredible speed, power and reflexes, it is reasonable to suspect that Broner, at 23, simply needs the time and fights to truly establish himself and enhance his resume.
At the same time, Broner has only contested two actual world title fights (he was overweight for what would have been his third against Vicente Escobedo). While neither Viloria nor Marquez have had truly long title reigns, they are more established championship-level fighters and will be unifying titles.
Whether Broner or DeMarco wins, it is reasonable to suspect that a unification clash against lightweight champions Ricky Burns (WBO) or Miguel Vazquez (IBF) is a possibility (Broner and Burns, especially, appears likely). While any combination of the above names would make a compelling fight, the likely Viloria-Marquez fallout can at least match it.
The aforementioned Gonzalez would be a major opponent for either Viloria or Marquez, as would Toshiyuki Igarashi, the current Ring and WBC flyweight champion. Whether the Viloria-Marquez winner makes a WBA/WBO defense against Gonzalez or further unifies titles against Igarashi (17-1-1, 10 KO), they should find themselves in another major fight right away.
Ultimately, this upcoming weekend should be another great one for boxing. All three fights discussed are worthy of attention, but don’t sleep on the little guys. Viloria and Marquez can bang, and whoever triumphs will have made an emphatic statement.