Monday, March 27, 2023  |


Oscar Valdez impresses in first gut check vs. Miguel Marriaga

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

CARSON, California – After a tough fight, Oscar Valdez retained his WBO featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Miguel Marriaga Saturday night. The fight was the main event of a Top Rank pay-per-view show held at the Stub Hub Center.

“Definitely my toughest fight,” Valdez admitted to reporters after defending his belt a second time. “I’ve never been that tired.” Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) had never seen 12 rounds before in his young career, and despite the wide scores of 119-108, 118-109, and 116-111, he had his mettle tested for the first time.

Marriaga, a 30-year-old contender from Cartegena, Colombia, was able to keep up with Valdez early on

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

with well-timed right hand counters and subtle left hooks to the body. Valdez, 26, pumped his jab often and also circled the ring to ward off a stalking Marriaga, but was willing to exchange in the pocket with emphasis on using his left hook. There were scattered moments in the first half of the fight, but Marriaga welcomed those exchanges, and with Valdez throwing every fastball at the same speed, the timing got easier for him.

Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) had his best round in the sixth. There, he peppered Valdez with combinations and had the Mexican reeling with his back against the ropes for much of it. Valdez kept with his jab after that rough three minutes and was noticeably more judicious with his attack. As Marriaga continued to be the one pressing on, many of the rounds seemed close with neither one overwhelming the other.

Everything changed in the 10th. The jab Valdez had been pumping all fight paid off as it set up a left hook in that round that sent Marriaga to the canvas. Marriaga, 30, was hurt badly from the shot he never

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

saw, and there was plenty of time left in the round for Valdez to go for the knockout. After getting up, the extra time it took for referee Jack Reiss to examine Marriaga may have helped his cause, but once action continued, Valdez teed off. All Marriaga could do was shell himself up, but he showed signs of regaining his legs with a rally in the waning seconds of the round.

Noticeably tired, Valdez held back in the eleventh and that gave Marriaga a chance to fully recover. The 5,419 in attendance were on their feet in the final three minutes, where both men gave everything they had left in some heated exchanges. It was as if they fought the 12th round knowing the fight could’ve been up for grabs, but as the scores indicated afterward, that was not the case.

In the co-feature, Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez made his return to the ring after year absence, and with a shutout unanimous decision win over Max Bursak, defended his WBO super middleweight title for the first time. All three judges ringside scored it the same: 120-106.

Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs) thoroughly out-boxed Bursak for 36 minutes. The rangy lefty made it look like a sparring session against the limited opponent, and by the fifth round, onlookers relied on the wave to

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

fixate themselves as Ramirez had his way. The 26-year-old Sinaloa native showed no signs of protecting the right hand he had surgery on as he let it go freely. His trademark left hand came in various ways, but it couldn’t seriously hurt the Ukrainian tough man.

Bursak (33-5-1, 15 KOs) was able to get on the inside of Ramirez sometimes, and landed enough right hands to bruise up Ramirez’s left brow afterward. Yet, those shots were awfully sporadic, and with Ramirez unable to give the pro-Zurdo crowd a moment to remember, the fight underwhelmed. More importantly, however, Ramirez said he feels good after making his return, and poses as a problem for any super middleweight looking to take his title.

In his professional debut, Shakur Stevenson earned a technical decision win over Edgar Brito after the fight was stopped in the sixth and final round because of a cut from an accidental head butt. All three judges ringside scored it 60-54 for the 2016 Olympic Silver Medal winner from Newark, New Jersey.

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

Stevenson, 19, won every second of every round and did it with precise combinations along with a slick defense, however, he couldn’t get out of the way of the bull rushing opponent’s noggin. Luckily, Stevenson wasn’t the one who was cut, and in the fourth, Brito’s face started to bleed from his own undoing, and it continued to do so throughout the fight as he got peppered by quick combinations. Prior to that round, Brito was docked a point for leading in with his head by referee Edward Hernandez Sr. The fight was stopped abruptly in the opening seconds of the sixth, and while Brito pleaded to continue, it was out of his control.

“It was great work. He did what he had to do,” said Top Rank founder Bob Arum after Shakur’s debut. “He came through and got the win and will only get better.”

Accompanied by the unified WBA/IBF/WBO light heavyweight titleholder, Andre Ward, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Claressa Shields, Stevenson was put in their with a bully in his debut, but he weathered the storm rather easilt while his counterpart looked like he was in a fight.

In the opening bout of the Top Rank PPV, Jessie Magdaleno made his first defense of the WBO junior featherweight title with a second round knockout of Adielson Dos Santos.

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

The blowout started once Magdaleno landed a right hand in the fateful round. It was followed up with a left uppercut to the chin by the southpaw, and the shots momentarily paralyzed the Brazilian while on his feet. Once quickly following up with a flurry, Dos Santos was on his back for a knockdown. Dos Santos, 25, was still shaken up once the fight continued and Magdaleno didn’t let him breath by throwing his straight left hand often.

Magdaleno (25-0, 18 KOs) managed to send Dos Santos back to the floor a second time moments later, and while he did get up in more than enough time, referee Lou Moret waved off the contest. Magdaleno, 25, hopped up on the turnbuckle in jubilation after the win, and embraced his trainer Manny Robles as well. Against a nameless opponent who could’ve made the fight look ugly, Magdaleno really couldn’t have done it any better.