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Valdez Wraps up His Rookie Year

(L-R) Oscar Valdez, Cristian Barajas / both weighed 129lbs (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(L-R) Oscar Valdez, Cristian Barajas / both weighed 129lbs (Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)


As the year winds down, there are still a few cards taking place during its final weekends. One of them takes place tonight in Tijuana featuring one of the bright young prospects in boxing, featherweight Oscar Valdez, who faces Cristian Barajas. It’s been a productive rookie campaign in the professional ranks for the former two-time Mexican Olympian, who began getting paid to fight last November.
 
“It’s been a great year for me, a great experience, “Valdez said to Maxboxing. “I think all my fights have gone the way I wanted to.”
 
Top Rank has matched him carefully with the likes of Jesus Lule, Jose Morales and Gil Garcia as he gets his feet wet. This isn’t Vasyl Lomachenko, who insisted that whoever gained his professional services had to fast-track him to a title shot. The 22 year old Valdez will be developed more traditionally. When asked what has surprised him early in his career, he says, “I guess probably myself. I feel I’m a lot faster than I was in the amateurs. I feel stronger and it’s different. That was the biggest surprise for me. Then the weigh-ins, I can recuperate and I feel way stronger during the fights than I did as an amateur.”

In seven victories, Valdez has notched seven knockouts, some of them in highlight reel fashion. The key though is to get him to settle down; as John Wooden once famously said, “Be quick but don’t be in a hurry.”
 
“I think he’s progressed greatly; now, he’s starting to settle in as a pro,” said Frank Espinoza, whose pedigree as a manager includes the likes of Israel Vazquez, Martin Castillo and Abner Mares. “He’s starting to settle down on his punches. He’s starting to take his time, starting to use his jab, use lateral movement. When he first came in, he would just want to stop everyone quickly but now, he’s starting to break down his opponents and take his time and he’s learning that every fight.”
 
Brad Goodman, matchmaker for Top Rank states, “[Valdez]’s getting better and better every fight. He’s a very, very physically strong kid and the best thing about it is he’s getting the proper sparring and that’s a credit to Frank Espinoza. He makes sure that everything is 100 percent.”
 
Espinoza made quite the financial investment in Valdez coming out of the 2012 Olympics. He’s signed blue-chip talent before and has had an impressive roster of past and current fighters on his roster. That said, he’s never inked someone so highly touted straight out of the amateurs. Thus far, Valdez has been exactly what Espinoza’s expected.
 
“Oh, yeah; there’s no question, even more so,” said Espinoza. “This kid has all the ability in the world. To me, when I look at Oscar, I think of the word “special.” I think he’s not just going to be good. I think he’s going to be great. He just has everything.”
 
Top Rank Promotions is relying on the likes of Valdez, Felix Verdejo and Ramirez to carry the company into the future. They think enough of this trio that they granted them undercard slots on their bigger cards this year. Valdez has fought on cards featuring Mikey Garcia and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and has had clips of his fights air on HBO.

“It’s been a great experience being around them, great fighters, great cards, so I’ve had the chance to meet great boxers and getting a chance to see their fights and learning a little bit from each of them,” he said. This weekend’s card will be featured nationally in Mexico on the Azteca network.
 
Overall, it was a productive stretch.
 
“We’re doing good. We’re going to have eight fights this year,” said Espinoza, who points out, “Because of his amateur background and having so much experience being a two-time Olympian, with [Valdez], you can move him a little faster than you can with a normal fighter. So we’re going to keep moving him along. He’s going to be stepping up after this fight. We’re going to be moving him up to eight rounds and we’re going to gradually get there but we’re going to go at an accelerated pace. But we’re not going to press the gas pedal till we know it’s time.”
 
Goodman is honest. They aren’t facing King Kong (and we don’t mean Joseph Agbeko) this weekend. “Just a solid journeyman,” he says. “Just basically getting one more fight till the end of the year and next year, we’ll have bigger things.”
 
Many things still have to be fleshed out regarding Valdez: Can he take a punch? How does he deal with adversity? For that matter, how will he cope with prosperity? But for now, he still has the boyish enthusiasm for the sport he’s dedicated himself to his whole life. While he gets paid to do it now, he has a fresh perspective on his chosen field.
 
“I don’t really consider it a job. I’m just having fun. I like doing this. I like being in the gym. I like sparring. I like fighting,” he says. “It’s not really a job. It’s fun for me.”
 
TNR
 
Here’s episode 462 of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
 
 
And now it’s available on iTunes:
 
 
WEEKEND FLURRIES
 
 
Here’s my latest contribution to SportsOnEarth.com: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/66076266/... In case you missed it, here’s a mailbag I did, Doug Fischer-style: http://www.maxboxing.com/news/promo-lead/k9s-holiday-mailbag...Speaking of Espinoza clients, Antonio Orozco faces Miguel Huerta on January 24th at the Fantasy Springs on a card televised by Fox Sports 1...Uh,  my fellow Lakers fans, how do you feel about that contract extension Kobe signed now?...USC and Fresno State play in a bowl game today. I was there at the 1992 Freedom Bowl when Trent Dilfer led the Bulldogs over the Trojans in Anaheim in Larry Smith’s last game as USC head coach. That Fresno State squad also had Lorenzo Neal...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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