Brian Viloria’s run at a possible third world title began with a head-scratching split decision.
The former Waipahu resident defeated Mexico’s Omar Soto last night at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, Philippines.
Two judges scored the bout 97-93 in favor of Viloria, while the third had it 97-93 in the favor of Soto, an eight-point difference.
"Everyone is perplexed about the odd judge who scored the fight for Soto," manager Gary Gittelsohn wrote in an e-mail. "The fight is exactly what Brian needed to shake off the cobwebs from his last fight and the distractions caused by (ex-trainer) Robert Garcia’s unprofessional and unforgivable conduct.
"Brian fought many opponents today and emerged victorious on all counts!"
Viloria, 27-3 with 15 knockouts, began comfortably in his first fight at flyweight in 19 months. He controlled the early rounds and looked to be on cruise control at the midway point.
Soto (19-7-2) started to press the action in the sixth round and made things close until Viloria ended the fight with a strong 10th round.
"I thought this was a good first step in getting myself back into championship form," Viloria was quoted as saying at the postfight press conference. "It wasn’t pretty, but I got the job done this time."
Viloria had many questions to answer entering the ring against Soto.
This was his first fight without Garcia in his corner in three years. He also needed to prove he had gotten over his last fight, a 12th-round TKO loss to Carlos Tamara that cost him the IBF light flyweight title.
Viloria collapsed in the locker room following that bout and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
"After what happened, mentally I had to get myself back into fighting form, but other than that I feel great," Viloria said. "The last couple of fights have been tough for me, but I learned a lot and I just want to continue."
Soto lost for the third time in his last six fights. He is 0-2 in world title fights, including an 11th-round knockout loss to Omar Andres Navarez for the WBO flyweight belt last June.
"I was a little skeptical of going in first, but after I was able to take his shots I decided to go forward and unfortunately he countered," Soto said after the fight. "He is very, very fast and I thought it was a very nice, good, even fight."
Gittelsohn said Manny Pacquiao, Viloria’s close friend who recently was elected to the House of Representatives in the Philippines, was ringside for the fight in support of Viloria.
Gittelsohn said earlier this week that he expects Viloria to be back in the ring before the end of the year.