Villalta unfazed by O’Malley, hometown crowd

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:53am

TACOMA — Luis Villalta knew he was stepping into enemy territory when he agreed to fight Edmonds native Martin O’Malley for the North American Boxing Association lightweight title.

But the largely pro-O’Malley crowd at the Emerald Queen Casino didn’t faze Villalta, who is accustomed to fighting in his opponent’s hometown.

“I just come in and do my work,” Villalta said. “That’s the best I can do.”

Villalta’s best turned out to be more than enough, as he easily won a unanimous decision over O’Malley July 19 to claim the vacant NABA championship. The victory likely gives Villalta a top 10 ranking by the World Boxing Association.

Villalta (30-4-1, 25 knockouts) won 97-91 on all three ringside judges’ cards. In the fourth round, Villalta knocked O’Malley (21-2, 14 knockouts) down twice and appeared to be in control for most of the bout.

The 33-year-old native of Peru, who now fights out of Hillsborough, N.J., was a little surprised O’Malley made it out of the fourth round.

Many of Villalta’s 25 knockouts were in the third and fourth rounds.

“This one here (O’Malley) was a little bit stronger and got up and did very well to protect himself to come out of the fourth round,” said the Spanish-speaking Villalta, who spoke through translator Jim Lopez of Pacific Northwest World Class Boxing Inc.

Villalta described O’Malley as a formidable opponent.

“He is a very good boxer,” said Villalta. “He has a lot of heart, a lot of talent.”

As part of his preparations for O’Malley, Villalta sparred with three boxers who were all heavier than 135 pounds, the cutoff point for lightweights.

The sparring partners’ weights ranged from 140 to 160 pounds, according to trainer and co-manager Lou Romano.

“We knew we were fighting out of here (Tacoma) and if he (Villalta) didn’t knock him out, he had to be strong the whole 10 rounds,” Romano said.

Villalta, however, knew very little about O’Malley coming into the bout. That’s the way he likes it. Villalta prefers to leave the scouting of his opponents to his trainer.

“I didn’t know nothing about O’Malley,” Villalta said. “I’ve never seen him. I knew nothing. I came over here to take the title and I did. I succeeded at that.

“I don’t go with reports from the Internet. I don’t believe in that. I come to fight and that’s it.”

Despite being well ahead on all of the scorecards, Villalta started the 10th round with a flurry and remained aggressive throughout the round. He was hoping to seal the victory with a strong finish.

“I felt I needed that last round because I’m in his backyard,” Villalta said. “I needed to come in strong and I won the last round. That was what made me more confident that I won the fight.”

As a result of capturing the NABA belt, Villalta is looking at arranging a major fight at the end of August, possibly on HBO or Showtime, Romano said.

“I have been looking for this title and I have been looking for this belt,” Villalta said. “The opportunity came and I took it.”

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