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Viloria claims split verdict over Soto

Former world champion Brian Viloria is hoisted on the shoulders of a supporter following his split decision win over Omar Soto of Mexico at Ynares Arena in Pasig Saturday. Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines - Former light flyweight champion Brian Viloria pounded out a split decision victory over Mexican Omar Soto late Saturday, putting his career back on track after a shocking setback last January.

Now fighting as a flyweight, the 29-year-old Viloria recovered from a sluggish middle rounds stint to annex the victory before a sizeable crowd in the “Boxing at the Bay” series at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.

It was an inspiring win indeed for a fighter trying to bounce back after conceding the title to Colombian Carlos Tamara at the Astrodome.

Viloria, also known as the Hawaiian Punch, was leading on points but lost steam in the 12th round, enabling Tamara to stop the Fil-Am fighter and snatch the title.

Moments after that fateful bout, the former Olympian passed out due to exhaustion.

Now he’s back with a vengeance.

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“I feel this was a good first step towards getting myself back into my old form. I know it wasn’t pretty but the most important thing is that I got the job done this time,” said Viloria in post-game interview.

“I wanted to come out safe there so I didn’t allow it to be a little too dramatic. I just put my skills at work and take out some of the rust and I think I did everything I want to in this fight,” he said.

Judge Edwin Sese and Ricardo Canlas each scored 97-93 in favor of the Honolulu, Hawaii native while the other judge Epi Almeda saw it, 97-93, for Soto.

The win upped Viloria’s fight record to 28-3, including 15 KOs while the 30-year-old Soto dropped to 27-7, including 13 stoppages.

Manny Pacquiao, the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and a Sarangani Rep. together with wife Jinkee, was among the big weekend crowd that cheered for Viloria.

Flicking jabs and scoring with solid rights, Viloria took control of the first five rounds only to slow down as the six-month layoff seemed to have taken its toll on him.

Taking the cue, Soto charged back with body shots and head blows to stay in the fight but Viloria managed to hold sway and danced out of trouble with superb footwork and stymied the Mexican with stinging jabs.

He poured it all out in the final round, unloading solid rights to gain the split decision.

“After this, I would work even harder for my next bout, go back to training in the gym and see where I go,” he said.

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