MANILA, Philippines - Former WBC/IBF lightflyweight and WBA/WBO flyweight champion Brian Viloria anticipates an “explosive” fight against upset-conscious Jose Alfredo (Diablito) Zuniga of Mexico in their scheduled 10-round bout at the Cotai Arena in the Venetian Macau Resort tonight.
Viloria, 33, said he’s not in the habit of predicting outcomes but he’ll do what it takes to pick up a victory and stay in contention for another world title shot. “This isn’t an easy fight,” said Viloria in an overseas phone call the other day. “Zuniga’s tough and durable. He’s fought some world-class opponents. I’m not taking him lightly at all. Of course, I’ll try to go for an early knockout but if he’s as tough as his record indicates, I’m ready to put the rounds in.”
Zuniga, 25, isn’t as experienced as Viloria and enters the ring with an 11-5-1 mark, including 5 KOs compared to the Hawaiian Punch’s 33-4, with 19 KOs. The Mexican is unbeaten in nine of his last 11 bouts but has lost two of his last three. He once went the distance in losing a 12-round verdict to now WBC minimumweight titlist Oswaldo Novoa. Zuniga has repulsed contenders Luis Ceja and Ganigan Lopez. Interim WBA lightflyweight champion Alberto Rossel of Peru barely beat Zuniga via a majority 12-round decision last year.
Trainer Freddie Roach will be back in Viloria’s corner for the fight, joining cutman Ruben Gomez and Roger (Speedy) Gonzalez. Viloria trained for Zuniga at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles with Roach and his assistant Marvin Somodio. Roach is in Macau to also work Chinese star Zou Shiming’s corner.
“Since beating (Juan) Herrera last March, I took a week off and went straight back to the gym,” said Viloria. “So I’ve been training three to four months, staying in shape. I’ve sparred over 70 rounds and I’m ready to go. Two of my sparmates were Juan Diego Arjona and Carlos Rodriguez. I’ve watched tapes of Zuniga’s fights. He’s unorthodox, tricky and a bit awkward. He likes to switch-hit and is a typical Mexican warrior who goes to the body and comes forward. He resembles Giovani Segura in fighting style.”
Viloria said he’s worked out a fight strategy with Roach. “I’ll do combinations, left to the body, left hook to the head, right hand,” he said. “Freddie doesn’t want me to rely on just one or two punches. If Zuniga charges in, I’ll push him back. I won’t make him outwork me. What I’ll do depends on what he does. I could counter or take the initiative. I’ll see what he does and size him up the first few rounds then I’ll adjust. I’ll be out there doing my best.”
Viloria said he’s excited to fight for a world title again and rejoin Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the country’s “Three Kings.” “I know I’ve got to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to come along,” he said. “We’re reached out to (WBA/WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco) Estrada for a rematch but I don’t think he wants to fight me. I can’t really wait for Estrada. I’m willing to fight any of the other world champions. My goal is to stay busy. You’ll never know when the opportunity will come for a world title shot. I’ve got to stay active and be ready.”
Viloria said he won’t mind facing Estrada in Mexico but it has to be worth the risk. “For me to fight in Mexico, it’s got to be a lucrative purse,” he said. “I’ll fight any world champion who’s available. There’s really no pressure for me to win a world title again. I’ve been raring for the chance.”
Fighting in Macau isn’t new to Viloria. In April last year, he lost a split 12-round decision to Estrada, yielding his WBA/WBO flyweight crowns at the Cotai Arena. Viloria can’t wait to book his first win in Macau. “It feels like home in Macau with so many Filipino workers and tourists,” he said. “I like fighting in Macau. The reception is amazing. The fans are great. They show a lot of support for Filipino fighters.”
Viloria is in Macau with wife Erica. They left their new-born baby boy Tyler in Los Angeles to be cared for by Erica’s parents and sister. “We miss Tyler a lot,” said Viloria. “He’s my motivation to go on fighting. I’m doing this for his future.”
Viloria said he’s not discounting the possibility of someday tangling with Zou. “We’re friends and we train side by side at the Wild Card Gym but maybe, sometime down the road, we might fight each other,” he said. “You never know in boxing.” Zou, 33, takes on Colombia’s Luis de la Rosa in his first 10-round bout on the same Macau card tonight. The two-time Olympic lightflyweight gold medalist has a 4-0 record, with 1 KO.
Viloria is now ranked No. 4 by the WBA, No. 6 by the WBO and No. 7 by the IBF. If Estrada continues to avoid him, Viloria said he wouldn’t mind challenging either IBF champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand or WBC titleholder Akira Yaegashi of Japan. But first things first. Viloria said Zuniga is in the way of a clear path to a world title crack and the priority is to dispose of the Mexican in Macau tonight.