Boxing Across the Nation: Hawaii-“The Hawaiian Punch” Brian Vilora
Boxing has been apart of the American sports scene since the 1700s by way of England. It started by infiltrating the larger port towns before eventually working its way into the lexicon of America. Now it showcases some of the most talented combat sports athletes in the world. We will embark on a 50 part saga exploring the best boxers representing the United States. Some states will have more athletes to choose from than others but the journey will be quite the ride. Let’s embark on the journey looking at an interesting fighter or bout from each state. Our 11th entry is the state of Hawaii.
Check out the 10 states we have covered by clicking below:
The nation’s only island state, Hawaii is the last state to join the United States. The state ranks 39th in population but is pretty dense as the nation’s 13th most densely populated state. On the island of O’ahu, sits Waipahu, which is less than three square miles in size home of the best boxers to ever come from the state. Waipahu Boxing Club, opened in the 1940s by hall of fame boxing coach Al “Quick” Silva, was the breeding ground for champions including future WBA and WBO flyweight champion and WBC and IBF light flyweight champion, Brian “The Hawaiian Punch” Viloria.
Early Life and Amateur Career
Few can claim to have had as successful an amateur career as the Filipino native and Hawaiian-born Brian Viloria. At the age of 15, Viloria won his first amateur championship, winning the gold medal at 100 pounds at the 1995 National Junior Olympics. In 1996 Viloria went up in weight at 106 pounds and won both the National and World Junior Olympics gold medals. He would continue to rack up medals until 1999 where he would win the 1999 National Golden Gloves in the light flyweight division, the 1999 World Amateur Championships gold medal. To top off this amazing year, Viloria was also named 1999 USA Boxer of the Year. At 19-years-old and an impressive amateur resume, it was time to test the field for the 2000 Olympic Games.
2000 Olympic Games
First off, Viloria traveled to Michigan for the 2000 US Olympic Trials. Picked as one of the favorites, Viloria ran through the competition defeating future world champion challenger Glenn Donaire. In the semi-finals Viloria defeated Glenn’s younger brother, Nonito Donaire, to earn his spot in the finals. Nonito would go on to win several world championships along with several Fighter of the Year and Knockout of the Year awards. In the finals, Viloria would end up defeating Karoz Norman, who was a teammate of Viloria. Winning the US trials, it was time for Viloria to travel to Sydney for the 2000 Olympic Games.
Considered one of the favorites, Viloria would exit the games in the round of 16. He was defeated by eventual gold medalist Brahim Asloum. Unfortunately for Viloria, the dozens of body shots landed were not counted, thus costing him the decision. He became one of three members from the 2000 Olympic boxing team to become a world champion. Viloria shares the honor with Jermain Tayler and Jeff Lacy. Though it was the end of his successful amateur career, this would also kickstart the beginning of his even more impressive professional career.
Entering the Pro Ranks
Viloria’s highly anticipated professional debut came in his home state on May 15, 2001, where he defeated his opponent by unanimous decision. He had a successful rookie year, winning all four of his bouts in 2001. In June 2002, Viloria battled Francisco Soto in California for the WBC Youth Flyweight title. The 21-year-old Hawaiian knocked out his opponent in the fifth round to earn his first professional championship. After a “no contest” with Alberto Rossel due to an accidental headbutt causing a bout-ending cut, Viloria would add more gold to his collection. His next bout was for the NABF Flyweight title, where he would defeat Juan Javier Lagos in August 2002. After four defenses of the NABF title and another WBC Youth title defense, finally earned his shot at major gold in September 2009.
First of the Major Four Grand Slam Titles
One of the biggest accomplishments in boxing is winning the world title within all four major sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBO, IBF, WBA.) Viloria is one of the few to do so and one the first leg, the WBC light flyweight, title in September 2009. Eric Ortiz was the current champion, who won the title in his previous bout in a vacant title matchup with Jose Antonio Aguirre. A right cross by Viloria dropped Ortiz in the very first round. Ortiz rose to his feet at the count of seven but stumbled and fell to the mat. The bout was waved off and Viloria was crowned the division’s new champion.
Defeat and Surge Toward IBF Gold
In his first title defense, Viloria defended his title against previous challenger for the title, Aguirre. After taking the unanimous decision, Viloria would run into his toughest task up to that point of his career in Omar Nino Romero. Romero, the huge underdog, would go on to defeat Viloria, giving the Hawaiian his first professional loss. In the immediate rematch for the title, Romero won by a much closer mark, squeaking out a majority draw. Romero would go on to fail a post-fight drug test, vacating the title.
Viloria was matched up with Edgar Sosa, a Mexican boxer with solid knockout ability. Sosa would go on to defeat Viloria by majority decision. After winning the title, Sosa would go on to defend the title 11 times, validating Viloria’s loss as a strong performance against an amazing fighter. Winning his next five bouts in a row, Viloria earned his shot at the IBF’s version of the light flyweight championship.
Claiming IBF Gold
In April 2009, Viloria found himself in the IBF title picture and was scheduled to face off against Ulises Solis in Manila. Entering the bout, Solis was The Ring Magazine #2 light flyweight in the world making his ninth title defense. Taking it deep in the contest, Viloria was able to dismantle the reigning champion with an 11th round TKO. After one successful defense, Viloria would then drop the title to Carlos Tamara. Viloria would then move up in weight class to the flyweight division and begin the chase for his third world championship.
The Move Up to Flyweight and More Gold
Viloria quickly earned at shot at flyweight gold, being placed in a matchup with the WBO flyweight champion, Julio Cesar Miranda, in July 2011. Viloria walked into the Cotai Arena in Macao as the challenger and walked out as the WBO flyweight champion. Earning the victory by unanimous decision, Viloria would defend the title two more times before entering a huge bout with Hernan Marquez in November 2012, with a chance to earn the WBA (super) flyweight title.
Chance to Add WBA Gold and Complete Grand Slam
On November 17, 2012, Viloria met Marquez in Carson, California to determine who would walk out the WBO and WBA flyweight champion. The bout was set for 12 rounds, but Viloria was able to end the night in round 10 with a TKO. Marquez was dropped in three of the 10 rounds before the eventual stoppage. Unifying the flyweight title, Villria was the first man to do so since 1965. The last man to do so was Italian Salvatore Burruni, who was the WBC champion. He defeated Thailand boxer, WBA champion Pone Kingpetch.
Rounding Out a Stellar Career
The bout with Marquez would be the last time Viloria would be victorious in a championship bout. He would end up losing the WBO and WBA title to Juan Francisco Estrada in his next bout. Viloria would reel off five straight victories. This earned him a shot at the WBC and The Ring flyweight title in October 2015. Unfortunately, he had to face future hall of famer Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. After suffering a 9th round TKO loss, Viloria won two more bouts before entering his retirement bout with one last chance at gold. The WBA flyweight title was on the line as he challenged Artem Dalakian for the vacant title. Dalakian walked away with the unanimous decision and Viloria was able to retire with a very successful career.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
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