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Oscar Valdez talks about a chance at revenge in his first title defense on Sept. 10 against Robson Conceicao

Oscar Valdez. Image courtesy of Getty Images
14
Jul

Oscar Valdez was 18 the last time he fought Robson Conceicao. Much has changed for Valdez, the WBC junior lightweight titlist, since then. For one, obviously, Valdez is now a two-division beltholder. The 30-year-old from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, is one of the most exciting fighters in the world today.

And on September 10, Valdez (29-0, 23 knockouts) will get a chance at some sweet revenge when he takes on the 32-year-old Brazilian Conceicao (16-0, 8 KOs) on ESPN from the Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Arizona.

Conceicao is the 2016 Olympic lightweight gold medalist.

Refreshed off his explosive, exciting 10th-round stoppage over Miguel Berchelt for the WBC 130-pound belt in February, Valdez, The Ring’s No. 2-ranked junior lightweight, is in the running for the 2021 Fighter of the Year with Eddy Reynoso stablemate Canelo Alvarez, Tank Davis and world junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor.



Valdez has not lost in a decade, since he was 20, dropping a 19-13 decision Ireland’s John Joe Nevin as a bantamweight in 2012 Olympics. Before that, Valdez lost to two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko, and before that, at 18, to Conceicao in the Pan-Am Games.

Valdez, who just signed a new three-fight deal with Top Rank on June 17, says he can’t wait to get this opportunity against Conceicao.

“First off, I’m in great hands with Bob Arum and Top Rank and we have a very relationship that goes back to the beginning of my career,” Valdez said. “I feel great. I was 18 when I lost to Conceicao, and I know people may not be happy with the fight, but Conceicao is the type of fighter not many people know, but he is a dangerous fighter. I know he’s dangerous, because I lost to him once.

“I’ve fought those type of fighters, like (Genesis) Servania and (Miguel) Marriaga. They are dangerous fighters, Scott Quigg, too. They might not have a lot of history, but when I fought them, people saw how tough they are. This is the same situation. I’m going up against a gold medalist, and we have a bit of as rivalry here. He beat me as an amateur and I know it was a long time ago, but we have some history going on here. He always said he wanted to fight me as a pro and I will do everything I can to keep my title.

“I know I have to stay disciplined and stay focused and I love staying in the gym and I love fighting.”

This is a very different Oscar Valdez. This is 30-year-old Oscar Valdez. This is world-titlist Oscar Valdez. This is the Eddy Reynoso-trained Oscar Valdez. This is the national Mexican-hero Oscar Valdez. This is millionaire-fighter Oscar Valdez.

“I haven’t changed,” he says. “I do feel like I am a different fighter than I was in the past and it’s been over 10 years since I lost. Since I lost to Nevins, before that it was Lomachenko, and before that Conceicao.

“I was 19 when I fought to Lomachenko, and I was 20 when I lost to Nevins. So, it’s a decade since I last lost and I have to give a lot of credit to my team, my manager Frank Espinoza, my trainer, Eddy Reynoso, and my father. I’m not here without them.

“I’m in the gym every day with Canelo, and with fighters like Ryan Garcia and Andy Ruiz. You learn every day. I want to learn every day.”

The ring and the gym have always been home, a comfort zone to Valdez, who first started fighting when he was six.

This is the best he’s ever felt in 24 years with gloves on his hands.

“I was talking to Canelo about that very thing the other day, feeling like this is the best shape I’ve ever been in my life,” Valdez said. “I always heard when I was younger fighter that when you hit 30, you’re already considered an old man. I feel the best shape in my life now than I did when I was 20, 25. Canelo agreed with me. We’re better, more concentrated, with better lifestyles, than when we were younger.

“I’m trying to get the in the ring another time this year, maybe a third time this year in December. I’m not getting any younger and I want to take advantage of this time. I respect Robson as a fighter and I want to win this fight, and I want to fight again in December.”

That’s the plan for Espinoza, one of the most underappreciated managers today whose fighters are a combined 8-0-1 this year.

“Signing with Top Rank was a great help, it’s a great organization, made of great people who care about people and they showed they cared and respected Oscar with the new three-fight deal, so right now, we’re really happy about that,” Espinoza said. “If we get this fight done in September and Oscar comes out clean, we’ll look at December, and if not, maybe January.

“If the fight ends in one round, I know Oscar will want to come right back. Oscar and I are resigned, and Oscar is happy. That’s the most important thing. I have a responsibility to make sure my fighters are happy.

“This fight in September is a big fight. Oscar may be looking for a little revenge. We’ll move from there. Oscar can close a very big year for him. Not many gave our team a shot against Berchelt and we proved everyone wrong, and Eddy and our whole team did a great job. We want to continue that momentum in September.”

And Valdez wants to settle an old score. He’s rarely lost. The few times he has, he remembers.

Time to avenge one of the few setbacks is now in his grasp.

“That’s what will be on my mind,” Valdez said. “I can’t wait to show everyone that the Berchelt fight didn’t happen by accident. We’re going to show fans again all of the hard work that we’re putting out in the gym. We’re going to show the fans what they want and they love seeing big knockouts and seeing guys brawling it out. I want to go in there and win in an old-fashioned way.”

 

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

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