Oscar Valdez ready to begin world title reign
LOS ANGELES – Two months after winning the WBO featherweight belt Oscar Valdez has his first defense set for Nov. 5 on the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas Top Rank PPV undercard, and the 25-year-old Mexican Olympian has gained a new perspective with the title.
After a press conference held at The Conga Room in downtown L.A., where his mandatory opponent, Hiroshige Osawa, was officially announced, Valdez spoke with RingTV.com.
“It was a dream come true when I came back with that belt,” reflected Valdez about returning to his hometown of Nogales, Mexico with a world title on his shoulder. “I (dreamed) about that moment: going to my hometown, bringing that belt, and having people know me, recognize me – that’s what I dreamed when I was a kid, and right now I’m living it. It’s been nothing but great for me right now, but now we’re in training camp – it’s back to business. Back to what I love doing the most – training, sparring, working hard, and then fighting.”
Valdez (20-0, 18 knockouts) won the vacant 126-pound WBO title in tremendous fashion in July after knocking out Matias Rueda in the second round of an HBO PPV undercard, and the quick turnaround puts himself back in Las Vegas, Nevada, but this time at the Thomas & Mack Center and on a PPV distributed online by his promoter, Top Rank.
“I have a tough fight in front of me,” said Valdez about his Japanese opponent. “He’s ranked number one, it’s a mandatory fight, and I’m more than happy for this opportunity of fighting on this great card under Pacquiao-Vargas.”
Osawa (30-3-4, 19 KOs) hasn’t fought outside of the Asian-Pacific circuit, but the 31-year-old veteran from Oaska has climbed the WBO ranks to achieve his mandatory status thanks to an eight-bout winning streak – all of which have came by way of knockout.
Valdez has a small knockout streak himself, and all of them have came by way of a left hook that is beginning to garner a vicious reputation, but it’s the fame and responsibility of being a world champion Oscar is most worried about.
“Of course,” Valdez quickly responded when asked of there’s a certain obligation that comes with having a world title. He continued, “I have a big responsibility with, first of all, Mexico, because there’s not a lot of world champions from Mexico, and back in the day there were a lot more than there is right now – that’s one. The most important one is with myself. I have a big responsibility with myself because I worked so hard for this and I don’t ever want to leave this belt. I don’t want to ever not have it and always be considered a world champion.”
In this day and age of boxing, the word “champion” is used loosely, but there are added pressures that come with the label, particularly the concept of unifying all four prominent world titles in order for the word champion to reflect it’s exact definition. The other three, Carl Frampton (WBA), Gary Russell Jr. (WBC) and Lee Selby (IBF), all sit across the political gray area in boxing, and it seemingly leaves Valdez deserted when a unification fight is brought up.
“Right now, no, and to be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about this until I got these questions when I got here,” Valdez answered bluntly about whether or not he thought about the said situation. “I would love that – who wouldn’t want a fight like that. I would want all the belts – that’s a dream that I would want to accomplish but it’s just very hard in boxing these days. Right now I have this fight in front of me – I wouldn’t want to ever jinx this and look at other fights when I have this tough fight in front of me. Of course in the future I would like those fights to happen – you have these big names out there and I’m pretty sure they want to fight me as well.”
With the role still new to him, Valdez can’t be seen without the burgundy and gold belt draped on his shoulder, but the question remains of how he maintains or elevates his drive after achieving one of his dreams.
“I’ve gotta work hard, I’ve gotta obey the commands of my trainer, and stay focused because they say, the bigger you get, there’s more distractions. I went back home, had a good time – I was eating a lot – but now have to get back to business, which in certain ways is not that hard for me. I love what I do. I love training, I love sparring, I love doing all this stuff, so I got a big responsibility with myself to keep on winning.”
Manny Robles is the trainer of Valdez, and after hearing of Oscar’s appetite a few weeks back during a conversation with RingTV.com at the presser, he laughingly replied, “Don’t they all!” Robles, who operates out of “The Rock” gym in Carson, California, further explained his role in keeping Valdez focused.
“Well, when he’s here, that is exactly my role. When he’s not here, just like every other fighter, it’s hard to play a role at all. All you can do is make sure that they’re good, that they get back when they’re supposed to and once they get back into camp, that’s when I come in and pretty much keep a firm grip. Make sure they stay disciplined not only in the gym, but outside of it as well. Make sure they’re putting in the road work, the gym work, eating healthy, resting, staying disciplined, doing everything they’re supposed to do in order to get ready for their respected fights.”
They’re currently three weeks into training camp for this fight with Osawa, and Robles doesn’t see much change since the emotional night they had two months ago. “He’s the same, hungry, disciplined fighter that he’s always been,” stated Robles. “We have close to six weeks left until the fight, so we just moved (sparring) up to eight rounds and next week bring it up to ten, the following week bring it up to twelve, and hopefully keep it that way for the following two weeks and then once we peak, we start bringing it down.”
As for anyone of note he chose to help prepare Valdez for Osawa, Robles admitted to bringing in a highly touted lightweight prospect.
“According to what I’ve seen from the opponent, we’re trying to diversify the sparring. I just got off the phone a second ago trying to set up sparring and we have Andy Vences coming in to help us for a week or so. Outside of that, we have plenty of good, talented sparring in the gym for Oscar, and we’re trying to cover all the corners.”
Having all the bases covered has much to do with Osawa being an unknown commodity on this side of the globe. “I don’t know much about him myself outside of watching video, he’s the number one contender in the world and is there for a reason,” Robles said about Osawa. “The same way Oscar was the number one contender in the last fight, now we have this guy, we have to treat him the same way we treated everyone else. This guy is gonna come in hungry just like Oscar, he’s gonna get his shot at a world title, so obviously we have to treat him with diligence and we have to treat him with the respect that every opponent deserves, and just be ready. There’s no such thing as an easy fight.”
The relationship between Valdez and Robles is the fuel that feeds the burning desire of the young champion. “We always speak boxing, we always talk boxing,” said Robles about their connection. “Outside of our families of course, you have to understand our families are the most important thing to us in our respected lives, but it’s boxing that provides for the family. So boxing is the most important thing in our lives. We look forward to the challenges, and accomplishing goals and dreams.”
When asked about what exactly it is about Robles that helps him keep a level head, Valdez explained, “He just treats you the same way. Once we won the world title, we were celebrating and it’s crazy to see him one day very happy, then see him the next day with a serious face. You can’t be playing around in the gym with him. He’s nothing but strict training and nothing but motivational talks. He’s a big part of what we did. Everyone considers boxing as an individual sport, but I don’t see it that way, especially when you have a guy like Manny Robles that never stops. We were recently talking about this, me and Manny, that he hasn’t had vacations in a long time because he has all these fighters and he never stops training. He has a different theory about training and is always working hard. The way he works, you don’t know if he loves you too much, or if he hates you. I’m very grateful for Manny. I don’t really have the chance to say that to him a lot because he’s always very serious.”
The entire Nov. 5 PPV undercard was announced at the press conference and all four fights involve a WBO title.
Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs) will defend his WBO junior featherweight title against Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs) in the co-feature, and the vacant WBO flyweight title will be up for grabs in a rematch between the two-time Olympic Gold medalist from China, Zou Shiming (8-1, 2 KOs), and Prasitsak Papoem (39-1-2, 24 KOs), in the PPV opener.
The Top Rank PPV is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT, and information on purchasing the stream can be found at TopRank.tv.