Tuesday, March 21, 2023  |


The fight (on many fronts) continues for Oscar Valdez

WBO featherweight beltholder Oscar Valdez. Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

TUCSON, Arizona – Oscar Valdez Jr. is fighting for Dreamers, fighting to stay unbeaten, fighting for Mexico, fighting for Tucson, fighting for family and fighting to keep a promise.

Valdez is taking on a lot and – in the here and now — all of it hinges on how the WBO featherweight titleholder does against the unknown Friday night at Tucson Arena on an ESPN-televised card (7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET).

There’s danger in that. Nobody knows much of anything about Filipino challenger Genesis Servania

Valdez (left) and Servania engage in a staredown after the weigh-in. Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank

“There was a time when nobody knew who Manny Pacquiao was, either,’’ said Valdez, 26 and wise beyond his years.

Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) expects anything.

“And prepares for everything,’’ his trainer Manny Robles said.

About Servania, the only certainty is his record (29-0, 12 KOs) over a career fought mostly in the Philippines and Japan, where he lives now. He has never fought in the United States, although he knows how to travel. His unblemished resume includes a 2014 victory in Dubai. There are no losses in Servania’s baggage. Not yet, anyway.

Valdez, who was at 125.8 pounds at Thursday’s weigh-in, intends to put one there. And everything seems to say that he will do exactly that on a loaded card that includes Gilberto Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs) in a defense of his WBO super middleweight title against Jesse Hart (22-0, 18 KOs) and Irish Olympian Mick Conlan (3-0, 3 KOs), a Valdez stablemate, against featherweight Kenny Guzman (3-0, 1 KOs).

Ramirez (left) and Hart engage in a staredown after the weigh-in. Photo Mikey Williams-Top Rank

Hart was at 167.6 pounds Thursday and Ramirez at 167.8. Conlan weighed 126.6 and Guzman 125. The unbeaten Servania weighed in at 125.4.

It’s a card with fighters from all corners of the globe. But it’s in Tucson because of Valdez. He grew up a few blocks from the arena in a city, where he went to school before returning to his birthplace, Nogales, on the Mexican side of the border with Arizona.

“When I last fought here a couple of years ago, I promised I’d be back with a title,’’ said Valdez, who stopped Ernie Sanchez, also a Filipino, at the Tucson Arena in December 2015 before winning his first world title in a stoppage of Matias Rueda in July 2016. “I don’t plan on losing it here.’’

For Valdez, the stakes are personal and political. In some ways, the two have become almost inseparable. He has cast his support for The Dreamers, undocumented young immigrants who are facing deportation if there is not a political deal to save a federal program, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

President Donald Trump announced in September that the program would be rescinded. But he did not close the door on more permanent legislation.

Since Trump’s decision, The Dreamers – about 800,000 of them – have hit the streets in protest. Valdez, who has dual citizenship, sees himself in their faces. Hears himself in their protests. His family has also been caught up in the immigration controversy.

His grandfather, Luis Fierro, was arrested last month, he said, in southern Arizona on an old traffic ticket. He wax jailed for about three weeks, Valdez said, and faces deportation. Valdez, whose mom lives in Tucson, said he got his grandfather out of jail. He said he would be at the fight Friday.

Valdez promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank hopes 500 Dreamers will be there with him. Arum put up 500 free tickets for Dreamers who show up at the box office with documentation of their DACA status.

“We come to this country not to rape or to be criminals – we only come to this country to do good things – to get a better life that we didn’t have back in our country,’’ said Valdez, a two-time Mexican Olympian who wrapped himself in the Mexican flag for the ritual face-to-face stare down with Servania after the weigh-in. “This is an opportunity for me to support what they are fighting for and speak for my family.

“The immigration controversy has affected my family. When your family gets caught up in it, it forces you to get involved. Forces you to fight.’’

Fight in a lot ways.