PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — It lacked the hype and drama that typified his last fight.
Still, Brian Viloria emerged the star of the night, scoring a unanimous decision against a game Jesus Iribe of Mexico to retain his International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-flyweight championship in a highly-entertaining 12-round bout at the rocking Blaisdell Center Arena here.
Viloria dominated right from the opening bell and then gamely fought the tough Mexican challenger toe-to-toe in the final round when Iribe launched an all-out attack in a desperate move to go for a knockout.
It didn’t come, as the Filipino-American came away winning through scores of 118-110, 117-112, and 117-111, in a decision warmly greeted by a hometown crowd of about 3,000.
“We all fought our hearts out tonight,” Viloria, nicknamed `The Hawaiian Punch’, said as he addressed the boxing fans. “I hope you guys enjoyed that.”
The fight dubbed ‘Island Assault’ was the 28-year old Viloria’s first title defense since dethroning another Mexican Ulises Solis last April at the Araneta Coliseum behind a dramatic, hard-fought 11th round knockout win.
With his seventh straight win, Viloria is now seeking a fight against WBO light flyweight champion Ivan Calderon.
Viloria, the former U.S. Olympian, used his jab and quickness to keep the stronger Iribe at bay.
He said his opponent felt a lot heavier, like 125 pounds, and was able to take a lot of punches.
The fighters traded blows in the middle of the ring in an action-packed final round. Iribe landed a jarring left hook to the body and Viloria came right back with a left-right combination.
At the end of the bout, both fighters raised their arms in victory.
They each had their moments and never really got into serious trouble, but Viloria was the aggressor most of the night and had the better of several exchanges.
Iribe’s trainer said if his fighter didn’t break his hand, he would’ve won without a doubt, which drew a smile from Viloria. With ice on his broken hand and a swollen left cheek, a disappointed Iribe said he wanted a rematch in Hawaii, or wherever Viloria is willing.
Viloria said he always respects Mexican fighters. He even invited Iribe back to the islands. However, “instead of fighting, I’ll take you out for cervezas (beers),” Viloria said.
Viloria’s right hook and combination sent the tough Mexican backpedaling to the ropes halfway through the fight. Viloria came out firing until Iribe started loosening up in the third round with the help of a couple shots to the head.
After taking a left to the body, Viloria answered with a hard hook that bloodied Iribe’s nose late in the 10th round.
Viloria, who grew up about a half-hour drive away in Waipahu, made a grand entrance to the “Hawaii Five-0” theme, conch shell blowers and an entourage waving the Hawaiian and Philippines flags.
It was the first world title fight in Hawaii since 1976, and Viloria improved to 4-0 in the Aloha State.
Filipino A.J. Banal also earned a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Jose Beranza in the undercard, a 10-round flyweight bout.
Banal improved to 20-1-1. Beranza dropped to 32-16-2.
Compatriot Dennis Laurente meanwhile, made it a perfect day for Filipinos as he scored a similar unanimous decision over Mexico’s Zaid Zavalete in a light welterweight bout.
There were no knockdowns in the 10-round bout, but Laurente dominated the action. He improved to 32-3-5. Zavalete dropped to 18-6-2.