"I want the winner of the Jermall Herring vs. Shakur Stevenson fight. Fans are asking for it. I’m going to rest for a week and go back to the gym. "
Despite a tough week for one of boxings most exciting fighters, Oscar Valdez remains undefeated and undeterred in his quest to show he is the best 130-pound fighter in boxing.
Friday night, hometown hero Valdez (30-0, 23 KO’s) grinded out a unanimous decision to retain his WBC junior lightweight title against former amateur foe Robson Conceicao (16-1, 8 KO’s). The fight was the main event on the Top Rank Boxing card on ESPN+ in front of a SRO, announced crowd of 4,545 at the AVA Amphitheater at Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, where Valdez grew up.
Conceicao had his best moments in the first 6 frames of the bout before champion Valdez seemed to take over. In the end, the judges score cards tallied 115-112, 115-112 and 117-110 for the undefeated champion.
The fight was very competitive, and Valdez certainly looked like he’d been buffed up after the fight, the champion carried the action and landed the much harder shots against the challenger who spent too much of the fight moving to establish any dominance.
The fight was especially satisfying for Valdez who avenged a defeat a dozen years ago against Conceicao who bested him in the 2009 Pan-American Games in Mexico City.
While the fight certainly had its fair share of action, the week leading up to first bell was a busy one for Valdez, and even more so for his representatives. Valdez tested positive, for the stimulant Phentermine, in a random test conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) on August 13; the results hit the press on August 30.
Now, here’s where it gets complicated. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission, which regulates combat sports on Casino Del Sol’s tribal land, gave the green light for Friday’s title fight. The WBC, the sanctioning body for which Oscar is the champion at 130-pounds, agreed to sanction it. Why? Because the commission adheres to the code set by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), which allows the substance out of competition, meaning until one day before a competition; VADA always considers Phentermine a banned substance.
My question is - if the commission allows the substance (following WADA guidelines) on any date except “during competition” why was (the failed test) even mentioned to the press as it wasn’t even close to the banned “in competition” date? Also, Valdez, who has never tested positive at any other time, was in the program voluntarily (knowing he could be tested) and passed every subsequent test.
In the end, he was good to go and delivered again on a strong, all-action performance, with a difficult opponent, and remains an undefeated champion.
After the fight, Valdez spoke of his victory and what is up next for the man who simply wants to test himself against the very best.
“I did my best to put of a good fight tonight,” said Valdez. “Thank God we got the victory, on to bigger and better things”.
Asked how he felt going into the fight with all the distractions outside the ring and he said he was just trying to listen to his trainer and execute.
“I was just trying to put the pressure on him and do what my trainer was telling me to do”, said the former amateur world champion and Olympian. “I don’t wanna put out excuses, but it was rough week”, he continued. “All sorts of criticism all week, and Conceicao yelling in my face and saying he won the fight after. But, most important is we got the victory”.
Asked what is next, and like he has done in every stage of his career, he just wants to test himself against the best and biggest challenge out there.
“I want the winner of the Jermall Herring vs. Shakur Stevenson fight. Fans are asking for it. I’m going to rest for a week and go back to the gym. When you are a champ there are fighters that want to take your belt. Bob Arum says he wants me facing the Herring-Stevenson winner in 2022. Let’s do it,” he said.
In Other news...
* On the undercard, previously undefeated Gabriel Flores Jr. (20-1, 7 Ko’s) ran into a rough and rugged Luis Alberto Lopez (23-2, 12 KO’s) who took a 10-round unanimous decision from the former teenage star. Lopez stalked and rocked Flores Jr. who simply didn’t have the power to keep the tough Mexican off him. After the fight Flores Jr. showed class in accepting the defeat with no excuses and congratulating Lopez with whom he had exchanged words with leading up to the fight. “He did his thing, I barely won a round. I’m very disappointed in myself and I wish I could have done a lot more, but I didn’t. But, I guarantee, we won’t lose again”, said Flores Jr. after the fight.
* After getting rocked in the 9th round, and after taking a lot of punishment in rounds 1-8, there was no reason to send Flores, Jr. out for the final round. His father wanted to stop the fight between rounds but seemed to get talked out of it by his son. The referee came over to the corner and did a terrible job of assessing the damaged fighter and then proceeded to watch him take a lot of unnecessary punishment over the final 3 minutes. A very poor (and dangerous!) job of officiating by referee Robert Velez. Why the corner or the referee didn’t stop the fight is beyond me.
* Heavyweight legend Evander Holyfield was stopped by former MMA fighter Vitor Belfort Saturday night, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, in the latest episode of former champs returning to see what is left, and cash a nice cheque. Holyfield was stepping into replace Oscar De La Hoya who came down with covid. While Holyfield didn’t appear hurt after the fight, he did look slow and off balance during the short time he was in the ring. Evander - you are 58! Please. Enough. There is talk of a Tyson-Holyfield matchup that I hope does not happen. Boxing has enough problems maintaining credibility in the sports world - these sideshows don’t help. I understand that the money is hard for these retired fighters to turn down but sometimes dignity, legacy, and most importantly, long term health dictates that sometimes knowing when to call it a day is also an important part of a career.