Viloria headlines Solar card at Cuneta
- Joaquin M. Henson () - December 21, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In a bold move to bring Las Vegas-style boxing to the country, Solar Sports plans to stage four to five cards here next year and give Filipino fans the opportunity to witness champions and rising stars in live action.

Solar chief operating officer Peter Chanliong said after recently signing Manny Pacquiao to a contract extension up to 2013 for the exclusive TV rights to his bouts, the network decided to put more emphasis on the “Boxing at the Bay” series which began with unbeaten superflyweight Drian Francisco’s 10th round demolition of Panama’s Roberto Vasquez at the Cuneta Astrodome last October.

Chanliong said Solar pre-terminated its Top Rank contract with two years left for “economic” reasons because it now made more business sense to shift business strategies to concentrate on Pacquiao and stage live events in the country.

“We talked with (Top Rank chairman) Bob Arum about it and we agreed it was to our mutual benefit to move forward with this shift in strategy,” said Chanliong. “Bob eventually signed a deal with ABS-CBN for his Top Rank fights. However, we remain closely involved with Bob and Top Rank in relation to Manny’s fights.”

Solar’s strategic shift, however, does not preclude its involvement in other overseas fights involving either Filipino or foreign fighters. For instance, it will continue to support former WBO superflyweight champion Marvin Sonsona’s fights here or abroad.

While Solar has the exclusive rights to Pacquiao’s fights until 2013, its contract to link up with the GMA network for the free TV airing of the icon’s bouts ends in two years.     

Solar is no stranger to live events. Last April, it staged the highly successful “Fast and the Furious” card where Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire shared top billing at the Araneta Coliseum. Then, it co-produced a big show in Honolulu headlining Viloria’s defense of his IBF lightflyweight crown against Mexico’s Jesus Iribe last August.

Solar vice president Ralph Roy said the “Boxing at the Bay” series got off to a strong start with Francisco’s disposal of Vasquez and will be a continuing program to highlight promising Filipino fighters and world titlists.

The first “Boxing at the Bay” show next year will feature Viloria taking on Colombian challenger Carlos Tamara and WBO minimumweight champion Donnie Nietes facing Mexico’s Ivan (Pollito) Meneses in the fourth defense of his 105-pound crown on Jan. 23 at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The double world championship card will be held on a Saturday morning to catch the live US pay-per-view audience on prime time.

“If our fights are at 12 noon, it’ll be 8 p.m. in Los Angeles and 11 p.m. in New York so we’ll be able to reach both the US West and East Coasts on prime time,” said Roy. “Our whole idea is to bring Las Vegas to the Philippines. Only a few Filipinos are able to fly to Las Vegas to watch our Filipino fighters in world title bouts so we’re turning things around.”

Viloria, 29, will meet Tamara, 26, in a rare battle of Olympians. Viloria fought in the 2000 Sydney Games while Tamara saw action in Athens four years later. 

Viloria has not lost in his last seven outings and is making the second defense of the IBF crown he wrested from Ulises Solis on a sensational 11th round knockout at the Araneta Coliseum last April. His record is 26-2, with 15 KOs.

Tamara, ranked No. 7 by the IBF, has won his last three outings. His record is 20-4, with 14 KOs. He holds a win over Alejandro Hernandez who fought Sonsona to a draw in Canada recently.

Nietes, 27, has repulsed challengers Eddy Castro, Erik Ramirez and Manuel Vargas since claiming the vacant WBO title by outpointing Thailand’s Pornsawan Porpramook in Cebu two years ago. His record is 25-1-3, with 14 KOs.

Meneses is ranked No. 11 by the WBO, No. 8 by the WBC and No. 11 by the WBA. A hard-hitter, he knocked out Giovanny Delgado in one round, Sergio Diaz in two and dropped Jose Figueroa twice en route to a win on points last June. His record is 14-5-1, with eight KOs.

“We can’t take Meneses lightly,” said ALA Boxing Gym owner Tony Aldeguer whose son Michael is Nietes’ registered manager. “But Donnie is used to fighting Mexicans even at their own turf. Donnie will go for a knockout as he usually does. His biggest asset is his mental toughness and great attitude.”

Nietes went to Mexico to beat hometowners Ramirez and Vargas in his last two defenses. Ramirez was floored four times in losing a decision while Vargas lost via a split decision. Nietes narrowly survived home cooking in beating Vargas as one judge saw it 116-112 for the Mexican while the other two scored it 118-110 and 116-110 for the Filipino.

ARANETA COLISEUM CUNETA ASTRODOME LAS VEGAS LAST MENESES NIETES TOP RANK VILORIA
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