Can Oscar Valdez live up to the hype?
It could not have been scripted any better.
A stellar, two-time Olympian, who has buzzed through his first 15 opponents as a pro, headlining fight cards and appearing on cable television.
That would be Oscar Valdez and his progression as a pro has made some wonder when (not whether) he could be fighting for a world title in the future.
The 24-year-old Valdez has had a stellar beginning to his pro career. Fighting on premium cable to showcase his tremendous talent for the world to see on Saturday night is just another notch on an impressive resume.
Valdez will fight Ruben Tamayo at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The 10-round featherweight bout will open the HBO telecast in support of the 12-round welterweight bout between Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas.
Valdez’s fight with Tamayo was originally not going to be broadcast by HBO. After discussions between Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum and HBO, Valdez’s fight was given the green light.
This is a good thing. While Valdez had fought on television, it was late on UniMas, which usually begins its telecasts at 11 p.m. ET/ PT. The exposure Valdez will receive on Saturday will be a lot bigger, something manager Frank Espinoza and Arum took into consideration as well.
This is also two weeks after HBO aired Felix Verdejo’s one-sided victory over Ivan Najera. Like Valdez, Verdejo is considered a can’t-miss prospect whose charisma and punching power are attracting more fight fans.
Having fought for Mexico in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, Valdez has impressed fans and media alike with his aggressive boxer-puncher style in the professional ranks. It has resulted in all but one of his bouts ending in knockout.
In his last bout on April 11, Valdez knocked out former fringe contender Jose Ramirez in the third round in Laredo, Texas. Valdez will face a formidable foe in Tamayo, who was stopped in his last bout in December at the hands of Jesus Cuellar.
“He’s an experienced fighter,” Valdez told RingTV in an interview earlier this month. “I take no fight lightly. I’m going to go in there and give it my best.”
Valdez has been matched modestly thus far and has passed every test with flying colors. Other than the Ramirez fight, Valdez has defeated solid veterans in Juan Ruiz and Alberto Garza.
He has demonstrated he can box or punch and although he does not have one-punch knockout power, Valdez can hurt fighters with either hand and can set up combinations very well. He is trained by Southern California trainer Manuel “Manny” Robles.
Despite having a high knockout ratio, Valdez chooses to box and work his opponents as opposed to trying to get take them out early.
“I’ve always said that if the knockout comes, it comes,” said Valdez, who was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico but trains in the Los Angeles area. “My mentality will always be to go the distance but if I hurt my opponent, I’ll obviously try to stop him.
“I feel like I’ve been advancing in every fight. I do feel the competition has been tougher. Hopefully good things will happen this year. Obviously, I have to do my best when I go in the ring. Hopefully, I’ll keep getting better.”
If not for an upcoming fight, Valdez has been a hot topic in boxing in general. Among others, Valdez has been mentioned as being one of the best prospects who came out of the 2012 Olympics.
Valdez has been mentioned in the same breath as Felix Verdejo, Errol Spence Jr. and Joseph Diaz Jr. (Vasyl Lomachenko is already a major titleholder). Valdez has seen and heard the talk in blogs and social media. While he is humbled by the accolades, he does not get ahead of himself.
“For me, it’s an honor and a privilege that people consider me as the next big thing. Every time I go on social media, I hear people say, ‘Oscar is the next big thing.’ That motivates me more. It gives confidence that I’m doing good. I don’t want to get carried away and let it get to my head. I don’t just want to believe it; I want to prove it but it gives me more confidence.
“People have been saying that Verdejo is the next Puerto Rican thing and that I’m the best Mexican thing. That just motivates me a lot.”
Valdez still has a lot to prove as a pro. He will have a significant challenge tomorrow night in Tamayo, a southpaw with a near five-inch height advantage over Valdez. But Valdez seems up to the challenge and improving as a pro.
While some fighters looks to get favors, Valdez believes in the virtue of hard work bringing rewards. Would that include a world title opportunity? Possibly but the hard work and skill set did earn Valdez a slot on premium cable, an opportunity many fighters never get.
Valdez hopes to make the most of it on Saturday night.
“I’m grateful and it’s just another form of motivation for me in the ring to put on a good show.”
[springboard type=”video” id=”1537621″ player=”ring003″ width=”648″ height=”511″ ]
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.