Looking at the details of their records, Brian “ the Hawaiian Punch” Viloria (34–4, 20KOs) vs. Armando “Chiquita” Vazquez (21–11, 4 KOs), the feature attraction of Glendale Fight Night IV scheduled for this Saturday, December 6th, 2014 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, would seem to be the obligatory tune up fight that hopefully doesn’t lead to an unfavorable mismatch for fans looking for competitive action. With Viloria firmly in the driver’s seat as the former WBO and WBA flyweight champion as well as the former WBC Light Flyweight champion and IBF Junior Flyweight champion to a relatively unheralded opponent in Vazquez , currently obscure enough to be missing a listed date of birth on BoxRec, Glendale Fight Night co-promoter Kahren Harutunyan wasn’t gun-shy when it came to calling a spade a spade. “This should be a tune up fight for Brian…I am not closely familiar with the opponent… but records can be very deceiving.” Harutunyan scrupulously added, “some fighters…don’t have the greatest record…but they come to fight.” Of course this is what the near to sold out crowd at the Glendale Civic Auditorium is hoping to witness as well as those set to watch the broadcast in association with TopRank and Solo Boxeo Tecate on UNIMAS at 6pm. As a former professional boxer and sparring partner of Viloria from the days when “the Hawaiian Punch” was looking to win his first world title, Harutyunyan was also realistic in assessing the possibilities. “I hope we’ll see a great fight in spite of what the record shows… (Brian) has faced the best continuously and he has won at the highest level continuously…Brian is a very elite fighter,” said Harutunyan.
As for Viloria himself, the words of others, positive or negative would seem to have little effect regarding his plans for Saturday. Viloria made no bones about the potential pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: “I have to look good in this fight… I don’t really know much about (Vazquez)…. He’s a shorter fighter and he’s a little wild so I should keep my punch combinations crisp and try to catch him before he comes in…. I’m looking towards… a world championship fight in February. None of that goes down unless this fight goes the way I want it to go.” Ergo what Viloria hopes with a win will be his hand crafted crystal stair to bigger and better contests.
Harutyunyan, a recent law school graduate with days in the professional ring behind him, notably having included fighting a competitive battle on SHOWTIME against pound for pound Filipino fight luminary Nonito Donaire (33-3, 21KOs), will be happy to be a part of a successful outcome for another Filipino champion in Viloria if it comes to pass on Saturday night. “This show is a great opportunity for me to work with fellow sparring partner Brian Viloria and his team…back in those days we were sharing the ring and sparring and helping each other prepare for fights,” said Harutyunyan. “I could definitely not even imagine… this… I’ve been out of boxing for over seven years now and (Brian) is still at the very top of the game - which is a huge credit to him and his entire team,” Harutyunyan remembered fondly.
Reminiscing and crystal stairs all aside, one thing Viloria would like to see in the rearview mirror are any self proclaimed “well wishers” and others who have taken lately to pointing out his age as an anomaly in a division defined by younger fighters assumed to be better than “older” fighters at remaining competitive while making those smaller weights that define the lighter divisions that Viloria has dominated. As an otherwise young 34 year old, proven as an enduring A-list threat within the division, Viloria is perplexed by those asking him to think about retirement simply based on numbers.
“ How are you supposed to feel?” Viloria mused. “A lot of people tell me that ‘hey you’re old’… How do you know? I’ve never been this old before…. I know how I feel in the ring. I know how I feel when I train…I feel real good so I don’t see the point of people telling me ‘you’re old’…in what terms?” Viloria continued, “I don’t think anybody else can tell you …you don’t know what Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32KOs) feels. He might feel great… a lot better than he was 20 30 years ago… as if he could go back into the ring and beat some of the best fighters out there…for him and for me…I don’t listen to people who say you should hang it up or you’re getting too old in this sport. I feel great.”
If questions of age are somewhat opaque with regard to both fighters in this headliner, what remains transparent is that a definitive win – the splashier the better - against Vazquez would make for the perfect early Hawaiian Christmas. In order to ensure the reaping of that golden ticket to bigger better fights, Viloria is understandably loath to delve too deeply into the land of “what if” beyond December 6th. However, Viloria did allow that should he win on Saturday and subsequently succeed in re capturing the World Title in February, a closely following match up between Viloria and hugely popular Chinese star Zou Shiming (6-0, 1KO) would be a nice 2015 bonanza. “I think so too,” Viloria agreed evenly with the enduring caveat that “December 6 is an important fight for me,” trumping all other dates or battles. Nevertheless, Viloria’s well thought out grading of Shiming’s latest win in Macau versus Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym (27-1-2, 12KOs) evidenced some highly analytical pros and cons suggesting that on the subject of Zou hunting Viloria is not completely immune to the game outside of his self imposed December 6th bubble. As both Shiming and Viloria train at Hall of Fame Trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym, both have access to a rather intimate sizing up of the other and it would seem that Viloria has taken some measure of that fight bait on the down low.
“I don’t know how he felt in that fight, “ Viloria demurred briefly stopping short of directly classifying the wildly popular Shiming vs. OnesongchaiGym. “I know that other fighter (OnesongchaiGym) took a lot of his punches really great… (Shiming) doesn’t really have knockout power… but he did his best… He’s got a short time to come out as a world champion. He has to learn really quickly, really fast. Being a two time gold medalist will help.” However, with regard to Shiming sitting on his punches and showing power in the first four rounds of that fight, Viloria was less generous “…(Shiming) showed some of the things earlier in the round that he was able to do but I think the rounds were too long for him. He just reverted back to his old style.”
Naturally, to Viloria’s considerable advantage, should Zou Ming vs. Viloria materialize, neither power or the length of twelve rounds would be an issue for the battle tested Hawaiian Punch. However as any fighter worth his or her salt will readily admit, this is boxing and first things first, Armando Vazquez is the boxing problem to solve from the opposite side of the Glendale Civic Auditorium come fight night.
Written by Kylie Krabbe
Photo by Alice Volonino
December 3rd 2014