Viloria wants his belt back
The former champ will face the man who handed him his first pro defeat
One of the more intriguing aspects of boxing is that anyone can get knocked down, and probably will, if they stick around long enough.
The real test comes when a champion hits the canvas and tries to get back up.
When Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria lost his World Boxing Council junior flyweight title last August against the relatively unknown Omar Nino, he remained on his feet the entire 12 rounds.
Viloria, of Waipahu, rarely threw a punch at the challenger, and lost a decision -- and his first world title -- without putting up much of a fight. He can ill afford such a mistake in tonight's rematch in Las Vegas for what is now Nino's WBC title in a nationally televised pay-per-view bout at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"Yeah, I know I looked past him," says Viloria. "Nino didn't have anything to lose that night, while it was the complete opposite for me."
Freddie Roach, who trained Viloria for the fight, feels that his fighter had his sights on another opponent on a completely different continent.
"There is no doubt about it," says Roach. "Brian was looking forward to unifying his 108-pound title against the World Boxing Association champ Koki Kameda in Japan, and that was a huge distraction for him."
While Viloria was preoccupied with the potential of bigger and better fights on the horizon, Nino was up to the task of his first world title fight that warm summer night at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
"I was determined to win," Nino said. "I went into the ring with one thing on my mind, and that was to go in there and win the world title. I put pressure on him, and that is how I defeated Viloria."
Almost immediately following his fight with Nino, Viloria and his team found themselves in uncharted waters. "The Hawaiian Punch" had never tasted defeat before in his 19 professional bouts, and therefore never needed to activate a rematch clause.
Viloria wanted to fight Nino as soon as possible after his upset loss, but manager Gary Gittelsohn found that negotiating a rematch when you don't have all the bargaining chips is not as simple as when you're the one holding the championship belt.
"It wasn't easy," says Gittelsohn. "Fortunately, I was dealing with real professionals on both Nino's end, and with Brian's promoter Top Rank, but it was obvious that Nino was still relishing in the moment, and because he upset Brian, he took full advantage of it."
Even though Gittelsohn remains silent when it comes to the financial details of Viloria-Nino II, "The Hawaiian Punch" did get what he wanted most -- the chance to win his title back from the man who took it from him, and who handed him his first professional loss.
The fight is on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales rubber match. It will be the first time Viloria enters the squared circle against an opponent he has lost to, and he will be fighting with his back against the wall.
"This rematch is very important to me," says Viloria. "I know if I don't pull this out then that will be it for my career."
Whether or not Nino, 24-2-1 from Guadalajara, Mexico, decides to use the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, and fight Viloria the same way he did in their first matchup, is still to be seen.
"Brian just needs to let his hands go," says Roach, who handed over the duty of training Viloria to a team headed by Joe Hernandez for the fight because he will be handling Pacquiao in the main event. "His punch output was really low last time, especially for a little guy like Brian. This time he needs to be more aggressive."
Viloria could not agree more.
"That wasn't me in the ring that night," says the former WBC champ. "I know I need to go in there and take it to Nino, not allowing him to back me up like he did before."