Should Brian Viloria Defend Flyweight Titles or Pursue Roman Gonzalez, Exposure?

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Should Brian Viloria Defend Flyweight Titles or Pursue Roman Gonzalez, Exposure?
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Brian Viloria (left) is one of boxing's hottest fighters.

After unifying flyweight titles against Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, Brian Viloria would seemingly have a plethora of options moving forward. By scoring a 10th-round stoppage in a bout that will garner honorable mention consideration for Fight of the Year, Viloria (32-3, 19 KO) has firmly established himself as one of the sports hottest fighters.

Yet despite being the WBA/WBO 112-pound champion, Viloria also finds himself at somewhat of an impasse. It is no secret that boxing’s smaller weight classes struggle to attract mainstream recognition. Though arbitrary and unfair, this peculiar discrimination could impact Viloria’s next fight.

According to BoxingScene.com’s Ronnie Nathanielsz, the WBO has ordered that Viloria face its No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger, Milan Melindo. Negotiations must start within 30 days; should the camps reach an agreement, they will have an additional 90 days to schedule the fight.

Despite the WBO mandate, should a pound-for-pound-caliber fighter like Viloria settle for a mandatory defense?

Perhaps, Viloria’s most exciting prospect is a fight with current WBA light flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez. A murderous puncher and two-division champion, Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KO) won on the Viloria-Marquez undercard in what could act as a prelude to a future encounter.

Though Viloria-Gonzalez is one of boxing’s best hypothetical matchups, RingTV.com’s Ryan Songalia reports that this fight might not materialize as soon as anticipated:

When he returns, Viloria says he hopes to arrange a clash with unbeaten WBA junior flyweight titleholder Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (34-0, 28 KOs), but remains unsure if that's in the immediate plans.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Brian Viloria has hit his stride after a few setbacks. But will he ever get a marquee fight on HBO or Showtime?

I think they're gonna want to fight a couple more times at 108.

Viloria's long-time manager Gary Gittelsohn echoed Viloria's sentiments, saying they are “very interested in a Gonzalez matchup” but that “indications are that Gonzalez is not in any hurry to move up in weight.”

Songalia does note that an email to Gonzalez’s manager remained unanswered by the time he went to press. Still, the short-term prospects of Viloria-Gonzalez—a fight that could surpass Viloria-Marquez in significance and action—appears murky at best.

So where does this leave Viloria?

With Gonzalez out of the immediate equation, Viloria would be wise to consider making his WBO mandatory defense. According to Songalia, Viloria’s thrilling win over Marquez (34-3, 25 KO) was the first flyweight unification in almost 50 years. While alphabet titles are often a nuisance, as a unified champion, Viloria possesses hardware that can be used as bargaining chips to secure other big fights.

Furthermore, Viloria’s mandatory challenger, Milan Melindo (28-0, 11 KO), is an intriguing opponent. At 24 and undefeated, Melindo has bested former 105-pound champion Muhammad Rachman and captured multiple regional and minor titles. Of greater interest is that, in 2010, Melindo defeated Carlos Tamara, the only man who’s stopped Viloria (in an IBF light flyweight title fight).

Also, Melindo is from the Philippines, and Viloria is a Filipino-American. Though he was born in Hawaii and represented the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Viloria has contested five of his past seven bouts in the Philippines. Naturally, Viloria-Melindo would be a massive and profitable draw if staged in their ostensible backyard.

Jeff Bottari /Getty Images
Roman Gonzalez looms as a major opponent for Brian Viloria.

Songalia also mentions that Viloria brought up the likes of former foes Tamara (22-7-1, 16 KO) and Edgar Sosa. Tamara and Sosa (47-7, 28 KO), of course, have both beaten Viloria, and fights against either man could provide Viloria with desirable redemption.

But, is the chance to exact revenge enough to justify fighting Tamara or Sosa at the expense of Melindo?

Well, not really. Tamara, who has a 1-3-1 record since beating Viloria, is an especially weak opponent and will likely elicit groans from fans and pundits. While Sosa has enjoyed better success since defeating Viloria in 2007, he has lost his last two bids for a world title—in 2009 via knockout to Rodel Mayol and in 2011 against Thai legend Pongsaklek Wonjongkam.

In his post-fight interview after dismantling Marquez on WealthTV, Viloria explicitly stated that he hopes his performance will force premium networks like HBO and Showtime to invite him onto their airwaves. Viloria certainly deserves this, as do other elite fighters campaigning in boxing’s smaller weight classes.

Unfortunately for Viloria, fighting Gonzalez might be the only way to secure a spot on a major HBO or Showtime card.

Given Viloria’s sensational performance against Marquez, Viloria-Melindo would be a fine addition to any televised undercard on HBO or Showtime. That said, Viloria shouldn’t hold his breath and might be better off defending his WBA/WBO titles in the Philippines as he awaits Gonzalez’s jump to 112 pounds.

If Viloria-Gonzalez happens, it will be an excellent fight. In the interim, Viloria should defend his belts against Melindo, maintain his status as a unified champion and keep making exciting fights.

At this point, it’s up to the suits at HBO and Showtime to give Viloria the exposure he deserves.

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