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Valero makes a strong impression with KO

04
Apr

Edwin Valero stands over his fallen prey, Antonio Pitalua, in the second and final round of their lightweight title fight Saturday in Austin, Texas. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank

AUSTIN, Texas – Edwin Valero wasted little time in seizing the attention of the American public.

Valero, fighting for the first time in the United States since 2003, stopped Antonio Pitalua 49 seconds into the second round to win the vacant WBC lightweight title Saturday night in the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus.

The Venezuelan has now stopped all 25 of his opponents.

“This is the beginning of big things,” Valero said in the ring after immediately after the fight. “No man can take my punch.”

So far, it’s difficult to take issue with that comment.

Pitalua (46-4, with 40 knockouts) came into the fight with credentials. His record speaks for itself, although most of his fights have taken place in Mexico. He has a lot of power himself. And he’s a very young 39.

However, he never really had a chance to show anything. Valero made sure of that.

The fighters felt each other out in an uneventful first round, although Valero pressed the action and Pitalua seemed to be tight, perhaps even somewhat intimidated by his opponent and the moment.

Then, seconds after the second round started, BAM! Valero landed a right hook that badly hurt Pitalua and put him down with a follow-up flurry. The Mexico-based Colombian managed to get to his feet but went down again under a storm of punches.

After regaining his feet again, he was trapped in a corner with Valero – smelling blood – pounding away when the referee jumped in and stopped it.

Just like that, Valero, who has 19 first-round knockouts, ended another fight in an instant.

“Honestly, I expected more from him,” Valero said. “I thought we would go into the fifth or sixth round and I would have to break him down little by little. ÔǪ I did land some jabs in the first round that I think broke his (spirit). Then I knew the end would come faster.”

The victory gave him his second world title and was a striking performance in his first important fight on U.S. soil. It was also more significant than it might seem.

Again, Pitalua is a tough, proven lightweight who was given a real chance of winning this fight and he was swept aside like a gnat.

And the more-experienced fighter seemed to be afraid from the opening bell, which is a reflection of Valero. He’s scary, an aspect to him that can go a long way both in the ring and in marketing the rest of his career.

Bob Arum, his promoter, is convinced he has something special

“He’s the best lightweight in the world,” Arum said. “Anyone who is willing to fight him, we’ll accept the challenge. I’d love for Juan Manuel Marquez to step to the plate but he’s a whiner. I don’t think he’ll go in with a guy like this.

“Jorge Linares maybe. We'll look around for an opponent. Manny Pacquiao, if everything goes well against Ricky Hatton (on May 2), would be great. But we want to build (Valero) up more so the public knows him better.”

Of course, there are complications. Valero is licensed to fight in the U.S. only in Texas because of a head injury suffered in a motorcycle accident in 2001 in which he had bleeding on his brain.

Arum said he’d have Valero fight again in Texas or in Mexico and ultimately try to get him licensed in other states, including Nevada.

“One step at a time,” Arum said, “one step at a time.”

Valero took a nice step on Saturday.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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