For hometown fans' sake, Viloria swings for fences


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brian Viloria went for the pin on 18 with a 3-stroke lead. He tried to steal third with the game tied, none out and the cleanup hitter up. Instead of taking a knee, he threw a bomb leading by a field goal on the last play of the game.

Viloria could've played it safe, dancing around for 3 minutes to easily retain his world light flyweight championship last night at Blaisdell Arena. He was safely ahead, and everybody knew it. Jesus Iribe's only chance would be to score an unlikely knockout, and the quicker Viloria could make that chance nil.

That is, if Viloria had chosen to run.

The champion had a different idea. He wanted a knockout. He wanted to put on a show for his hometown crowd. He wanted to end it on a good note. He'd already put on a technical boxing clinic in the early rounds.

Viloria wanted to give them all a full meal, and leave them hungry for more.

So he traded haymakers with the challenger instead of playing it safe.

IN THE tactical sense, it wasn't very smart. In the strategic sense—part of the mission here was to revive interest in boxing in Hawaii—it was brilliant.

“;My heart was in my throat,”; said Viloria's manager, Gary Gittelsohn.

“;I would've fought smart,”; said Viloria trainer Robert Garcia, a former champion himself who once lost a big fight by doing the same thing.

While Viloria didn't give the 4,500 at the Blaisdell exactly what he and they wanted—a 12th-round KO of Iribe—he gave them their money's worth. And promoter Tom Moffatt was smiling.

This is the kind of thing boxing experts shake their heads at, but fight fans love.

“;I didn't think the last round was necessary, but he felt the people deserved it,”; Garcia said. “;In the early rounds he was fighting the perfect fight.”;

Indeed. Viloria picked his spots to land scoring combos, mixing in jabs to the head with body shots while Iribe did little but avoid big shots and miss wildly with hooks of his own.

Iribe became more aggressive, winning some late rounds.

“;I could feel him getting stronger,”; Viloria said.

Viloria began to look less than perfect. But, still, it was unlikely he would lose unless he opened up.

IT MIGHT have seemed he lost his mind in that 12th round. Viloria, though, called it “;controlled chaos”; and said he knew exactly what he was doing.

“;I was thinking, 'I'm a fighter, and people came to see me fight.' I looked Iribe straight into the eyes and it was like, 'Let's do it.' I wanted to give all the boxing fans that last round. As lightweights, we're overlooked, we don't get credit for fighting, but we're fighters, too. I didn't care if I went down, these people spent money.”;

So they traded for 3 minutes, Viloria comparing it to something out of a Rocky movie.

Both were still standing at the end, Viloria's arm the one raised.

It wasn't perfect boxing. It was risky. But it was a helluva 3 minutes.

Iribe respectfully asked for a rematch. Viloria promised to meet up with the Mexican again—for cervezas, not fisticuffs.

He had already given the challenger his chance, coming out to trade bombs in that crazy but brilliant 12th round.