Oscar Valdez fulfills childhood dream with dominant performance
Oscar Valdez Jr. had a dream of one day becoming a world champion and saw that dream come to fruition with a scintillating second-round knockout of Matias Rueda to secure the vacant WBO featherweight title.
Behind a piston jab and some wicked power shots, Valdez went to work and proved why he’s one of the fastest rising young stars in all of boxing. The former Olympian lit his Argentinean foe up like a Christmas tree with an assortment of punches. Rueda tried to withstand the offensive offering but was wrecked at every turn as Valdez throttled him with hooks and blistering power shots. To his credit, Rueda had a chin on him and remained upright despite the punishment. But in the second round Valdez made the conscious decision to finish his combinations with a hook to the body and it paid off in dividends as he finally dropped Rueda with a left hook to the torso. Rueda (26-1) refused to stay down but it was only a matter of time before Valdez sank yet another hook into Rueda’s body and referee Russell Mora mercifully called a halt to the fight at the 2:18 mark.
A jubilant Valdez jumped into the arms of his corner and celebrated his first world title as the arena erupted.
“It’s a dream I had since I was 8 years old and decided to be a boxer,” an emotional Valdez (21-0, 18 knockouts) said. “It’s not only a dream I had but a dream I shared with my father.”
With yet another magnificent performance under his belt and the boxing world on notice, the new WBO champion has opened the door to any and everyone who wants a piece of him. Whether that be one of the other featherweight titleholders or a fight with Vasyl Lomachenko, who holds a victory over Valdez as an amateur, Valdez says he is game for it all.
“I want to fight the best, whoever it is,” Valdez said. “I want revenge against Lomachenko. That loss was in the amateurs but this is professionals. I’m ready for him. But I repeat, I’ll fight anybody.”
Jose Benavidez Jr. perhaps made things a little more difficult than they needed to be in scoring a unanimous decision victory over the game, but overmatched Francisco Santana.
In the first round, Benavidez (25-0, 16 knockouts) appeared to be on his way to an early finish as he rocked his opponent with a blistering series of power shots and was obviously of a higher class in skill.
However, for reasons unbeknownst to those watching, the unbeaten fighter took his foot off the gas and allowed Santana (24-5-1) to work his way back into the fight. There was a clear discrepancy in talent but a combination of Benavidez deciding to cruise while Santana refused to back down would do more harm than good to Benavidez’s marketability. Santana ate whatever Benavidez landed (whenever he decided to throw combinations) and charged forward. There was nothing flashy from Santana but he kept himself in the fight by throwing a bevy of punches as Benavidez languished on the ropes.
Although nothing Santana landed was a threat at any time, it certainly didn’t help Benavidez’s efforts as he continued to try and land the perfect counter and allowed Santana to gain confidence. It was clear that Benavidez could land when he wanted to (as evidence by landing nearly 50 percent of his punches) but he allowed himself to be outworked in sports. In the end, Benavidez was simply more talented and earned scores of 100-90, 96-94 and 98-92.
Oleskandr Gvozdyk (11-0, 9 knockouts) survived a first-round scare to keep his unbeaten record intact with a sixth-round TKO against Tommy Karpency (26-6-1).
Karpency was more than prepared to play the role of spoiler like he did back in 2014 when he upset Chad Dawson. He nearly pulled off the upset yet again when he dropped Gvozdyk with a right hook in the opening frame. The punch appeared to surprise Gvozdyk more than anything else but the Ukrainian got back to his feet and made it out of the round. Gvozdyk slowly began to take control, although Karpency refused to back down. However, in the sixth round, a Gvozdyk straight right hand landed squarely on Karpency’s left eye and he let out an audible yell in obvious pain. Shortly after, Karpency took a knee and motioned that he couldn’t see as the referee counted him out at the 2:21 mark.