By: Hans Themistode
Oscar Valdez knows that there were times when he didn’t look like his normal dominant self.
Even with the betting world, along with media pundits and fans, believing that he should waltz over a particular foe, Valdez has struggled. In November of 2019, Valdez was viewed as a gargantuan favorite against Adam Lopez. But while many were expecting him to easily take care of business, the Mexican star found himself in a back and forth firefight.
In the second round, after being thoroughly outboxed in the first, Lopez appeared on his way to scoring the gigantic upset as he sent Valdez crashing to the canvas. Ultimately, however, Valdez dusted himself off and went on to score the stoppage victory in the seventh.
In his most recent trip to the ring, Robson Conceicao walked into the ring brimming with confidence, despite being viewed as a sizable underdog. While Valdez would go on to win, the end results were considered controversial.
Valdez, 31, is well aware of his unflattering moments in the ring. He’s also cognizant that if anything less than his best appears tonight, his WBC super featherweight title reign will come to an end. In just a few short hours, Valdez will attempt to unify the 130-pound division when he takes on WBO titlist, Shakur Stevenson. The two are scheduled to swap fists in the main event at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Although Valdez acknowledges that he hasn’t always looked like a world-beater in the ring, he believes that tonight will be different. The confidence of the 31-year-old doesn’t simply stem from an arduous eight-week training camp but more so from the threat Stevenson presents.
Pegged as boxing’s next big thing, Valdez believes that considering the overall skillset of his upcoming opponent, his game will have to rise.
“When I go against fighters that are higher level, it just brings the best out of me,” said Valdez to Mark Kriegel.
Stevenson, 24, has vociferously pushed for a showdown against Valdez for a number of years now. At one point, the former Olympic silver medalist fought his way to the number one ranking in the WBO sanctioning body at 126 pounds. Valdez, at that moment, proudly held said title. Although the Mexican product could have opted to face his mandatory challenger, he decided against it. Instead, Valdez would drop his world title and make the trek four pounds north where he would ultimately dethrone former super featherweight kingpin, Miguel Berchelt.
Shortly following his victory, Stevenson moved up in weight as well. After securing his own world title against Jamel Herring, stopping the former Marine in the 10th round of their October of 2021 showdown, Stevenson began chastising Valdez, provoking and antagonizing his man while urging him to face him.
Even after securing a date against Valdez, Stevenson has continued to push his buttons. With the pair set to face off later on tonight, Valdez’s emotions are edging on rage. As the Mexican star and former two-division world titlist ponders long and hard to himself, he can’t recall another fighter who made him feel so apoplectic.
“I don’t think so, no,” said a laughing Valdez when asked if any fighter has ever annoyed him more than Stevenson. “Shakur does a good job tweeting, he does a good job on social media.”
Regardless of the back and forth trash talk and despite the raw emotions that Valdez is experiencing, the current WBC 130-pound titlist is attempting to stay level-headed. While Valdez would love nothing more than to charge straight ahead the moment the opening bell sounds, he’s acutely aware that his mindless game plan would lead to his undoing.
With most pure boxers, there’s a tendency to perceive that a persistent and relentless attack to the body will slow them down in the later rounds. However, Valdez believes it will take more than a concentrated attack to Stevenson’s midsection to secure the victory.
In addition to planning a more well-round assault, Valdez is convinced that his showdown against Stevenson will not resemble his typical blood and guts war of attrition. Rather, Valdez believes he’ll be forced to place his thinking cap on.
“I can’t go in there and try to dig to the body. You go to the head, you go to the arms, there’s types of ways of putting pressure. You have to use smart pressure. Instead of a war, it’s going to be a chess game.”
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