Viloria focused
for title shot

He’ll find out if a boxing world
championship is in the cards
on July 30

This is one poker game where you definitely don't want to get caught cheating.

The regulars include pro boxers Brian Viloria and Manny Pacquiao. Freddie Roach, a former pro who is now Viloria's trainer, also sits in. They're all nice, personable guys -- but definitely not the type to be trifled with.

Viloria's regular Texas Hold 'em game at his Los Angeles home is suspended, though, while he prepares for the biggest fight of his career. He has a July 30 appointment with Eric Ortiz for the WBC light flyweight championship at Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, on the undercard of the Million Dollar Lady event featuring Christy Martin and Lucia Rijker.

Ortiz, a 28-year-old from Mexico, is 24-4-1. This is the first shot at a world title for Viloria, a 24-year-old Waipahu graduate and 2000 Olympian.

"I love Las Vegas," said Viloria (17-0), who will fight in Sin City for the first time as a pro. "I go there for vacation, and I always see a lot of people from Hawaii. I like to play blackjack, but when I'm home, it's poker. Manny, Freddie, (manager) Gary (Gittelsohn) and some of his lawyer friends. It's pretty friendly."

The cards were friendly to Viloria at their last game. He said he won around $1,000. Boxing and poker have some parallels, he said.

"They're both mind games," Viloria said. "In poker, like boxing, I see the right time and I jump in, put all my chips in.

"I'm a hard guy to read, and a tight player ... tight-aggressive. When I play my cards, they know I'm not kidding. I try to read weak hands and attack. It's a lot of fun."

Fun-time is on hold for now; Viloria is so focused on his training now that he didn't know Joseph Hachem had won the World Series of Poker on Saturday.

The next few days of training are key for Viloria; with a week left before the fight, he begins to taper down.

"I'll maintain weight and relax a little more. Scouting my opponent and sparring, that's ongoing," he said. "I'll still run every day, but then cut everything in half a week before."

Viloria runs 5 miles every other day at Griffith Park in Hollywood. He does sprints on the other days.

Viloria's father, Ben, is with him to prepare his meals and help keep him focused.

The boxer will have a large contingent of friends and family from Hawaii and Los Angeles on hand for the fight. His L.A. buddies include actor Scott Caan (son of James Caan) and "General Hospital" star Maurice Bernard.

"The entire cast of 'General Hospital' is coming to the fight," Viloria said, and then with a laugh. "It's turning into a soap opera."

| | |
E-mail to Sports Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com