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Valdez, Left in the Bullpen

 (L-R) Oscar Valdez, Jesus Lule Raya / both weighed 127.75lbs (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(L-R) Oscar Valdez, Jesus Lule Raya / both weighed 127.75lbs (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

By Steve Kim


Back on the night of September 28th, young featherweight hopeful Oscar Valdez believed he would be entering the ring at the StubHub Center in Carson, California between 6 and 7 p.m. as part of the undercard featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s return against Bryan Vera. HBO was actually going to show some clips of Valdez’s (one of Top Rank Promotions’ best young prospects) bout versus Joe Morales on the broadcast.
 
Instead, as fights got shuffled around and eventually, HBO went on the air with a fight from Montreal featuring Adonis Stevenson and Tavoris Cloud, Valdez was left in the bullpen for the duration of the night. Valdez became the middle reliever forced to get up a few times top warm up, only to sit back down as his number is never called.
 
He went from potentially being on the HBO airwaves to being the walk-out bout as he didn’t get to face Morales till after the night’s main event.

“I was getting a little frustrated,” Valdez admitted of that evening, when he ran his mark to 6-0 (6) with a third-round stoppage, “but I have a good team with me. They were trying to calm me down. They were trying to get my head away from me getting mad. We were still having a good time, just trying to relax. We had to warm up again. So yeah, it was frustrating at first but we ended up working good.”
 
As Stevenson stopped Cloud and Chavez eked out a controversial decision against Vera, Valdez and his team, stuck in the confines of the StubHub Center locker room, couldn’t even watch the fights because they weren’t provided a monitor. “We just had a little radio and we were listening to old music. The only thing I could hear is the crowd screaming and then at the end, they were booing. I couldn’t really see what was going on,” said Valdez.
 
Valdez’s manager, the respected Frank Espinoza, wasn’t happy with the circumstances in which his boxer was involved.
 
“It was very frustrating, really. I mean, it’s hard, especially for Oscar. You could imagine because we had to take his gloves off, put ‘em back on and Oscar being so young and you don’t know how he’s going to take it, those moments,” he explained to Maxboxing. “A veteran has already been through that but I didn’t know how he was going to react. But it was a setback for all of us because we wanted Oscar to perform in front of as big an audience as possible and the way things turned out, it didn’t happen. But he still had a job to do and Oscar did what he had to.”
 
But while Valdez did score a knockout, he looked overanxious and rushed, unnecessarily putting himself in harm’s way in the process. Espinoza believes the delays absolutely played a part in this uneven performance.
 
“I think it did. It takes you out of the loop for awhile. I think it’s difficult to keep your focus. You lose that mentality because when you’re prepared to go up at a certain time and then all of a sudden, they tell you that you have to wait and then you have no idea when you’re going up. Then you have refocus and come down mentally as they take off your gloves and you get antsy. Then you get gloved again and then they have another delay. It’s not easy to deal with,” said the manager, who has gone through this process with the likes of Israel Vazquez and Martin Castillo.
 
So why was Valdez left in the ‘pen and held off?
 
“Because you wouldn’t want to put him on when there’s 300 people there,” explained Carl Moretti, Vice President of Boxing Operations for Top Rank. “You hold him for later in the evening and the timing just didn’t work out that night.”
 
On shows like this, fighters like Valdez are slaves to television logistics.
 
“Absolutely,” said Moretti, who explained, “You want to try and get the best timing for these young kids to be shown as well as a production. They have to be taped at a certain time and it’s a difficult thing when they get past the four-round status and fights go the distance or don’t go more rounds than scheduled. It’s something you can’t plan for till night-of and you do the best you can. Most of the times it works out; sometimes it doesn’t.”
 
And as the likes of Karim Mayfield, Diego Magdaleno, Matt Korobov, Jose Felix Jr., Daniel Sandoval and Gabino Saenz were able to ply their trade, Valdez was left waiting...and waiting...and waiting.
 
Luis Garcia, Valdez’s strength-and-conditioning coach, says the constant starts and stops became a hassle in terms of having a fighter who is properly warmed up and ready to fight. He says, “You want to make sure that the fighter is ready at the right time. You don’t want to start too late and rush things. We  had a heads up already, Clemente [Medina, the head trainer] and I were just trying to pace him but I do think that by the time we got out to the ring, we had warmed up so many times that I don’t think our final warm-up was sufficient.
 
“But then again, it’s a six-round fight. It’s not like it’s a 12-round fight. But I do think it’s dangerous if he gets caught cold.”
 
So what happens tonight in Corpus Christi at the American Bank Center, where he’s scheduled to take on Jesus Lule?
 
Moretti says, “We’ll play it by ear. I think we’d rather see how the night goes. We got a lot of fights. [HBO] is going to be clipping Nicholas Walters, who’s the WBA featherweight champion. You have three live fights; you got a lot of promos. From a production schedule, there’s not a lot of room for highlight clips to begin with.”
 
When you’re the feature attraction, your ring entrance and fights are timed out almost to the minute. However, with a fledgling fighter like Valdez, what happened to him back in September is a rite of passage for almost every boxer. “Well, the only ones that go through this are the ones that mean something now or are going to mean something later,” Moretti states. “So if there’s no consideration for clips or trying to put a guy in a certain place, then that’s the worst case scenario.”
 
Whenever his number comes up, Valdez says he will be ready to go.
 
“I’m ready for anything. If I have to wait three hours, if I have to go up there right away, I’ll be ready for sure. I’m well-prepared for the fight. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I’m prepared physically and mentally.”
 
FEATHERWEIGHTS
 
Top Rank is active in the 126-pound class with the likes of Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan (who are both under the promotional banner and square off tonight) and IBF beltholder Evgeny Gradovich. There’s a very good chance that Walters - who recently signed with the company - will be in line to face one of their other titlists or marquee names.
 
“Whether it’s next or sometime later in 2014, yes,” confirmed Moretti, “but this is obviously the first step in getting him some exposure and seeing what type of fighter he is and then matching him from there.”
 
WBO titlist Orlando Salido is also a Top Rank/Zanfer client. According to Moretti, you can pencil in his bout against the highly-touted Vasyl Lomachenko on January 25th at the Theater of Madison Square Garden.
 
WEEKEND FLURRIES
 
 
The WBO has ruled that Terence Crawford is now the mandatory challenger for their lightweight titlist, Ricky Burns. So it looks like - once again - Ray Beltran is getting the shaft...According to Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com, Victor Ortiz will return against Luis Collazo on January 30th at the Barclays Center on Fox Sports 1...Tickets to the December 14th card at the Alamodome featuring Adrien Broner vs. Marcos Maidana are on sale ($14, $25, $31, $58, $85, $112, $166, $220 and $274) and you can grab tickets by calling 210-979-3302...So Jorge Arce is coming back? Oh, geez....Big game for Miami. Can they bounce back against a tough Virginia Tech defense after the loss to FSU? This game will be very telling...I think LSU will give ‘Bama all they can handle tonight...Did Stanford just body-punch Oregon all night or what?...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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