Saturday, December 02, 2023  |


Life has changed for Oscar Valdez

Oscar Valdez (right) nails Miguel Berchelt. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Fighters Network

Oscar Valdez would get the occasional nod when he would be seen in his hometown, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The newly minted WBC junior lightweight titlist would even get a few picture requests, and the 30-year-old who looks like he’s 14, would kindly oblige.

This, however, was something different.

Valdez (29-0, 23 knockouts) needed police protection from a crowd of thousands last Monday in Nogales who were pulling and tugging at him since he stopped Miguel Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) at 2:59 of the 10th to win the WBC junior lightweight title on Feb. 20 from the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“People were going crazy, ripping at my clothes, reaching through the car windows when they found the word spread that I was coming home,” said Valdez, who has a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. “It was literally like driving into a parade. I never experienced anything like it. Nogales is pretty big, and I’m a home guy. I’m either at home or on my range.

“I go to restaurants and everything is free. The craziest thing was when I got into my truck during the parade. I had all of these girls reaching in my truck and I was in the back seat. They tried to pull me out. The police surrounded us to get us out. I never experienced anything like it.”

Moving forward, Valdez, now ranked No. 2 by The Ring at 130 (behind Gervonta Davis) wants to continue building on this momentum. He wants to fight two more times before 2021 closes and wants to unify titles and get more big fights.

“Shakur Stevenson says that I’m scared of him, saying some pretty nasty things about him, so he’s on my list,” said Valdez, now a two-division titlist as the former WBO featherweight beltholder. “I’ll also look at the winner of the (WBO junior featherweight titlist ) Jameel Herring-Carl Frampton fight. Gervonta Davis is definitely on my radar.”

It changed with Berchelt, who was considered too big and strong for Valdez.

“Berchelt is a very tough fighter, and there were times when I didn’t think that I would hurt him; I felt like I was hitting a rock,” Valdez said. “He was looking to knock me out, and that’s when you get knocked out. I had a tough time making featherweight. It was getting extremely hard and it was becoming tough recovering.

“I feel very strong at 130. It’s a more natural weight. I’ll continue here at 130, and maybe a few more years, I’ll think about 135. I feel like this is my prime.”

Valdez could not forget the contribution of his trainer, Eddy Reynoso, the 2019 BWAA Trainer of the Year and a strong early candidate for the 2021 Trainer of the Year award.

“I consider myself a very disciplined fighter and I love being in the gym, and it comes easy when you have someone as great like Eddy being with me,” Valdez said. “Eddy has helped become a smarter fighter and when to pick my shots. I had the speed and the punch. It’s when to throw them and when to pick my shots.”

Frank Espinoza, Valdez’ manager, has had over 100 fighters, including now 11 titlists, the most recent being Valdez, the only two-time Mexican Olympian. Espinoza likes to use terms like “warrior,” and in this case, his fighter “out-warriored the warrior.”

“Everything has come together and this is a great relationship since I saw him in the amateurs,” said Espinoza, one of boxing’s good guys and an early consideration for 2021 Manager of the Year. “Oscar is a two-time world champion as a featherweight and now at junior lightweight.

“Oscar is very loyal, which you find a lot in fighters these days. His word is his bond. I feel great to be involved with him. We’re going to look for two more fights for Oscar. This is where it starts. I would like to get him back into the ring in July.

“Oscar is someone I never have to look for—that’s always in the gym.”

On Monday, March 1, Valdez was back in the gym.

“Conditioning is one of the hardest things to get and one of the easiest things to lose,” Valdez said. “I’m a champion. I have to maintain a responsibility as a champion and that’s to keep myself in shape.

“I have a responsibility to my family. To my kids, I’m not a champion, I’m not a fighter. I’m their dad. That keeps you humbled. They gave me a big hug when I got home. I don’t like the children being out in public, but once the parade ended, I made sure I ran to them and hugged them.

“It was emotional for me. The kids don’t realize the lifestyle of a fighter and what goes into it. They’re the reason why I go through the sacrifices. Everyone wanted to celebrate after the victory.

“I wanted to get home and see my family. I know I have to keep on winning.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.