Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stone Cold Stunner: Brian Viloria loses title to Carlos Tamara

Brian Viloria collapses in the arms of trainer Roberto Garcia with some help from referee Bruce McTavish after the dramatic fight with Carlos Tamara.

Stone Cold Stunner

Carlos Tamara wrests IBF Junior Flyweight Title from Brian Viloria in a thrilling and heartbreaking match.

words and picture by rick olivares

In the days leading to his second title defense of his IBF Junior Flyweight title, Brian Viloria exuded confidence during a light workout at the Punchout Gym in Salcedo Village, Makati. The Hawaiian Punch noted that his challenger, Colombian Carlos Tamara, liked to drop his hands. “I’m going to take advantage of that,” promised Viloria. “I’m ready to do 12 rounds if I need be and I’m going to win.”

And Viloria seemed to be well on his way to keeping his promise as he was way ahead on points from the first to the eighth round in the Main Event of Collision Course.

But in the ninth round, “El Olimpico” as Tamara is nicknamed, came out smoking and landed a flurry of punches that seemed to hurt and take the starch out of the champ. He continued to hammer away at the champ and was on the verge of taking the 10th round as well when Roberto Garcia, Viloria’s trainer and a former IBF Super Featherweight champion himself, hurled instructions from the corner. “Steal the round, Brian. Steal the round.” he urged his voice betraying a sense of urgency.

Tamara had taken the last two rounds and the tide had clearly turned.

Viloria’s long time manager, Los Angeles attorney and businessman Gary Gittlesohn, stood up from his ringside seat and went up to his fighter. “Second wind, Brian. You have to find your second wind.”

Except the challenger, sensing blood in the water, began teeing off on the champ who had backed off at the resumption of the fight. Viloria weaved and bobbed and evaded potential haymakers but expended more energy in doing so. When he did land the occasional punch, the power was a fraction of what he threw earlier in the fight.

It was Tamara who found his second wind. The Astrodome crowd chanted “Vi-lo-ria” to give the hometown hero a boost but that was all she wrote. But like Garcia’s or Gittlesohn’s voices earlier, they fell on deaf ears.

“Look at me!” commanded Garcia during the last huddle. The time for One-For-the-Gipper speeches was over. His fighter was running on fumes but Garcia hoped to tap one last reservoir of gasoline in his beleaguered fighter. “I need you to move. And give it all you’ve got. Steal this!” he hissed. “Everything you got. Now!”

Viloria never looked him in the eye.

The 12th and final round was a formality to the eventual coronation of a new champion. One last coda to a masterful comeback by the challenger who after the eighth round and severely behind on points was egged on by his trainer Edgar Sanchez to do it for his two daughters who were left behind in the fighter’s home in Bergen, New Jersey.

That Viloria lost was shocking especially after he seemed to get his career back on track following his incredible win against Ulises Solis last year and his first defense of the crown against Jesus Iribe. But what was ghastly was seeing Viloria run out of gas and twice lunge and miss so badly that he couldn’t hit the side of a barn even if his life depended on it.

“I felt his power,” Tamara would later say of Viloria’s punches that he ate from rounds three to eight. In the last three rounds, Viloria was spent. It was he who dropped his hands and had no defense. It was he who did not go the distance as Bruce McTavish, being charitable to the erstwhile champ and to the hometown crowd gave Viloria a few more seconds to steel himself but instead only delayed the inevitable. At the 1:45 mark, McTavish threw himself between the two fighters and the fight was done.

And for the crowd in attendance, you could feel the wind sucked out of them and out of the building. Gittlesohn sat dumfounded, his perfectly combed hair now a tussled matte. Solar Sports’ Chief Operating Officer Peter Chanliong stood behind Viloria’s corner and looked stunned. Like fight analysts Ted Lerner and Mike Ochosa, he was not sure about what he had just witnessed. He found himself a chair and sat down. He too was spent.

The crowd showered Tamara with applause. Some in the audience already took the opportunity to shake hands with his trainers and ask for photos. “I told you that we were going home with the belt,” said Sanchez. “We trained hard for this. Real hard. This opportunity doesn’t come to often and we knew we had to seize it.”

As Tamara obliged the media for interviews and photo opportunities, Viloria was rushed first to the San Juan de Dios Hospital then to the Makati Medical Center for a CT Scan that proved negative for blood clotting but he had to get stitches to the ugly gash that was opened above his left eye. “He’s fine,” said Dr. Nasser Cruz of the Games and Amusements Board. “He will just stay overnight at the hospital for some observation. But he’s in no danger.”

A concerned Tamara and his advisers lauded Viloria for his class and being a model fighter who did not engage in needless verbal sparring. “We’re going to visit Brian Viloria in the hospital after we get dressed,” said Tamara through Sanchez who worked as an interpreter. “That’s returning the respect that was shown to us in our stay here. We have only good things to say about the Philippines.”

Early in the 12-round bout, it seemed that Tamara’s would have traveled 8,000 miles to get a whipping as Viloria was landing those bombs of his. But the fourth round foreshadowed the meltdown to come.

After firing away at the El Olimpico, Viloria looked tired and dropped his hands. Tamara fired a few jabs that tagged the Hawaiian Punch who recovered. Viloria landed numerous power punches but as in the fight with Iribe, he couldn’t put his foe away.

The challenger showed that he could take Viloria’s best punches and now it was his turn. He took the last four rounds and got stronger while Viloria wilted.

“I knew it was going to be hard,” said Tamara through his interpreter. “But I showed that I too, have a fighting heart.”

Notes: After 11 rounds, the judges scored the fight this way: Joe Garcia still gave the edge to Viloria 106-103; Ray Reed had Viloria slightly ahead 105-104; and Somsak Sirianant had it 105-104 for Tamara. The new champ, now with a 21-4 record, will now set his sights on Ivan Calderon. Any rematch with Viloria, who falls to 30-3-1-1 will be discussed at the proper venue should he decide to continue with his boxing career that is once more in question. El Olimpico who wore a New York Yankees 2009 championship baseball cap to the post-match press conference will celebrate first in New Jersey before flying home to Colombia. His dream now would be to throw the opening pitch at a game in the new Yankee Stadium.

This article appears in the Monday January 25, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror.

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