No home cooking was necessary for the two Filipinos who headlined the Top Rank Manila boxing card, flyweight Nonito Donaire and junior flyweight Brian Viloria. Their fists made the scorecards useless. Donaire, a top-20 pound-for-pound player, put on a pure power-punching exhibition to decimate Raul Martinez by knockout in the 4th, and Viloria scored a huge upset of the highly-regarded Ulises Solis when he landed a massive right in the 11th to notch a borderline Knockout of the Year and Upset of the Year. Viloria-Solis was an excellent bout from start to finish, while Donaire bedazzled with a sterling performance. If you didn’t fork over the $25 for the show, it was your loss.
BRIAN VILORIA – ULISES SOLIS
Rumors that Viloria had found his focus are not at all greatly exaggerated. For one night, anyway, Viloria didn’t fade in the late rounds, or spend much time getting outworked. That was a major difference. Another major difference is that what I’d thought to be slight physical advantages for Viloria were, in fact, massive ones. Viloria was much faster and hit harder. Those two major differences allowed Viloria to upset a truly elite fighter, a man who was on the cusp of pound-for-pound top-20 status on my list and already there on some.
Viloria started quickly, and his right hand had too much speed for Solis, a very good defensive fighter. Solis looked slow by comparison. In the 2nd, Solis began to do some body work, but Viloria was still landing the showier punches. That body work came with a price for Solis — lots of warnings that he was hitting low. In the 3rd, a round where he got much busier, Solis got a point deduction for the low blows. It was the first round I gave Solis, but it ended up 9-9. Solis kept some steam and made some adjustments into the 4th, continuing to work the body despite the low blow point deduction, moving his head as he came in, and letting combination punches flow. I still thought Viloria did the better work, shaking Solis with his shots. The 5th was a bad round for Solis — not only was he cut over the right eye, but he got yet another point deduction for low blows. Solis’ team complained later that Viloria’s trunks were high, and they were. But that’s something you deal with at the beginning of the fight, not after two point deductions. Solis was being trained by his brother, Jorge, for some reason, and maybe that’s why it took so long to get to the matter at hand.
Solis, realizing he was in a deep hole, came out hard in the 6th, swamping Viloria with activity. The next two rounds also went to Solis, and if you were looking for signs of a Viloria fade, they were there, but he was still surging late in rounds. Solis was backing him up and nearly knocked Viloria down at the end of the 8th. But Viloria’s corner issued impassioned pleas, and Viloria listened. He worked his jab early in the 9th and hurt Solis repeatedly, then added a cut over Solis’ left eye for good measure. The 10th was more of the same, and Solis, who’d showed considerable poise, began to look frustrated. In the 11th, the fight was academic on my scorecard, but Viloria kept up the pressure, then landed that peach of a right hand that put Solis down for a long, long time, requiring oxygen.
Solis has some rebuilding to do, but he shouldn’t have to do too much — he fought well, but he just got beat. It happens. As before, with Viloria, the sky’s the limit, but so is the basement. If he can fight like this every time out, he’s going to give a lot of fighters trouble in multiple lower weight divisions. I’d be interested in seeing him against any top-10 junior flyweight or flyweight. How much fun would Viloria-Giovanni Segura be, for instance?
NONITO DONAIRE – RAUL MARTINEZ
Martinez simply wasn’t in Donaire’s class, which is why I thought Donaire would knock out Martinez. Martinez hasn’t fought anyone who can punch like Donaire, not even in the ballpark, and Donaire is one of the most powerful fighters in the lower weight divisions. Two knockdowns in the first round. Another knockdown the next round. Another knockdown in the 4th, and the referee had seen enough.
Two left hook/uppercut hybrids did all the damage in the 1st, and a left hook in the 2nd that landed on the top of Martinez’ head did the damage in the next. Martinez, it must be said, showed mega-heart for getting up to start working himself back into the fight in the 3rd. Donaire gave him some opportunities by throwing caution to the wind and going for the finish, sure, but Martinez was starting to dial in his right hand a little. It dissuaded Donaire from being sloppy in the 3rd, even though Martinez’ punches didn’t appear to do much damage. In the 4th, another one of those hybrid lefts landed, and while Martinez — what heart! — protested, it was pretty clear that any time Donaire landed a clean shot, Martinez was going to go down. I thought the referee made the right call. Afterward, Donaire said his legs were weak from making weight, and you could kind of see it: He was mostly stationary and used his height to control things more than good lateral movement that had marked previous fights.
Donaire is one of the most watchable fighters in all of boxing, if you ask me. He’s fast, he boxes, but man, can he punch, too. He’s got something for everyone. All the distractions coming into this fight meant nothing in the end, because Martinez was a prospect who made a leap up in competition to fight a boxer with potential to be special and there was nothing he could do to change that. Martinez is a gutty, serious dude, and I’m betting he rebounds from this loss and does good things in the sport. But Donaire’s future is now. Top Rank should do everything it can to get him a big fight, and I’d nominate Fernando Montiel, the originally scheduled Donaire opponent and a Top Rank stablemate. Since Gary Shaw continues to fume at Donaire over his departure from his promotional aegis, Shaw won’t let Vic Darchinyan near Donaire for a rematch everyone wants to see but Shaw. Donaire-Montiel would be at bantamweight, given both men’s weight difficulties. I thought before, and still do, that Donaire-Montiel is among the top handful of fights in the sport.