Friday, October 9, 2015

Roman Gonzalez vs. Brian Viloria

Madison Square Garden, New York, Oct. 17
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View
By Peter Lim

This showdown resembles a miniaturized version of The Rumble in the Jungle. Downsize Foreman and Ali to half their weights and you'll have Gonzalez-Viloria - a young, seemingly indestructible destroyer at the peak of his prowess against an accomplished 34-year-old veteran whom many consider past his prime. Both are multi-division titleholders and potential Hall of Fame inductees.

Gonzalez (43-0, 37 KOs) has beaten everyone he has faced including several fighters to whom Viloria lost. Viloria has risen to the occasion against top-notch fighters but also fought down to the level of mediocre to above-average opponents. Like Ali in Kinshasa, Viloria enters the ring a substantial underdog in New York.

But as much as the sport of boxing could use an adrenaline jolt that a jaw-dropping Rumble-in-the-Jungle upset would deliver, that scenario will not repeat itself at The Garden. As likable and talented as Viloria is, he's simply no Muhammad Ali. While the Hawaiian Punch is very proficient in most facets of the game, he does not excel in any one area. Having struggled against gatekeeper-level opponents, Viloria (36-4, 22 KOs) lacks the ability to adjust and improvise mid-fight, as Ali did with the rope-a-dope against Foreman.

Gonzalez's youth, energy and relentless pressure prevails over Viloria in a war of attrition. Powerful and precise, Chocolatito gets the better of the toe-to-toe exchanges, and when Viloria moves his feet and tries to box, Gonzalez will chase him down, cut him off and let fists fly. By round seven, Viloria knows his only shot of victory is to land a Hail Mary and attempts to lure Gonzalez in for a single, explosive knockout punch. But Gonzalez denies him the opening by keeping his head low and gloves high while continuing to dish out debilitating punishment with both fists. The stubborn and gutsy Viloria refuses to wilt but the writing is on the wall and either the referee or his corner steps in to end the beating in the ninth round.

I predicted the outcome of this fight to a tee all the way up to the referee stepping in to end the fight in the ninth round. I have to admit, though, Gonzalez was even more devastating than I anticipated, but Viloria was also more resilient. I thought the stoppage was a smidgen premature given that Viloria had hurt Gonzalez with a body shot moments before it was called to a halt. 

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