Sunday, 9 April 2017

Oscar Valdez Moves Forward

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Promotions

The continued development of featherweight Oscar Valdez takes place on Saturday night in San Antonio, TX as he faces Alberto Garza in a co-feature on HBO Latino (9:45 p.m., ET). In his last outing in late July, Valdez was taken the distance for the first time in his 12-fight career by journeyman Juan Ruiz Jr.

It was his least explosive effort as a pro but perhaps his most valuable.

“It was a good experience. I know I can’t always knock out my opponents. As my career goes, the tougher my opponents are going to get, so it went the distance,” said Valdez, a couple of weeks ago at The Rock Boxing Gym in Carson, California. “It was an experienced fighter; he had a lot of fights on him and he would try and hit and hold. I would catch him a couple of times and I guess his game plan was holding. So it went eight rounds.”

Ruiz is the type of fighter who every fledgling boxer will face as he goes up the boxing ladder. His record isn’t much (he fell to 23-15 after losing to Valdez) but as you peruse his ledger, you see familiar names such as Gary Russell Jr., Victor Terrazas, Vicente Escobedo, Arash Usmanee, Daulis Prescott, Cristobal Cruz and Wayne McCullough. In his next outing, he faces Rico Ramos on Dec. 11. Yes, Ruiz loses often but he has never been stopped.

That is precisely why he was chosen for this assignment.

“That’s what we wanted to see, [Valdez] didn’t get tired. That’s what we were looking for. Juan Ruiz is a guy even though he has a bunch of losses, he’s a guy that takes everybody rounds and we were pleased. It was a learning experience. I’m not going to say that Valdez gave an A-plus performance but it was a B-minus and it’s only going to get better from there,” said Brad Goodman, matchmaker for Top Rank Promotions.

As for what he learned, Valdez explained, “I’m not going to always knock out my opponents but knowing not to get frustrated, I was getting

Photo by Mikey Williams-Top Rank Promotions

frustrated because he was holding too much. But as my trainer, Manuel Robles was telling me, ‘Just be calm; you’re going to end up catching him. Just keep using the distance on him,’ and work my jab on him. But eventually everything went good.”

At the highest levels of boxing, the fights are more of a marathon than a sprint, as the 23-year-old Valdez will soon discover as his competition is raised and he faces more skilled, durable opponents. “Exactly, you’ve got to know how to work your stamina; don’t waste no punches and as soon as he makes a mistake, just pick it up and hit him with powerful punches,” he concurred.

For Valdez, who often fights as the old-timers would say, as if he was double-parked, patience is a virtue.

When asked of his biggest improvement as a pro, he explained, “Working behind my jab and staying more calm because as I started my first fights, I would go in there and try to fight like an amateur. Go out there and throw as many punches as I can but now, I learned to take my time; work on my stamina, know how to not waste punches.”

“We got what we wanted out of that last fight,” said his manager, Frank Espinoza. “I know he can punch and be explosive but we’re coming to that point – and I think it will begin in 2015 – where he’s going to face better guys and he’s going to have to learn how to really work his way through a fight and face a guy who will stand up to him. I think going eight rounds like he did was a valuable experience.”

So how quickly will the former two-time Mexican Olympian be moved?

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Oscar is the best prospect I have ever signed out of the amateurs and I know what I have. I think this kid has a huge future but I absolutely will not rush the process. But next year is big because I do think we can make a major move with him,” stated Espinoza, who, in the past, has guided the likes of Martin Castillo, Abner Mares and Israel Vazquez to world titles. Goodman says, “By the second half of 2015, he’ll start fighting 10-rounders.”

Photo by Mikey Williams-Top Rank Promotions

Along with the likes of Gilberto Ramirez (who is the headliner at the Alamodome on Saturday night) and fellow Olympians Felix Verdejo and Jose Ramirez, Valdez is part of the foundation of Top Rank’s future. Early on, Valdez has lived up to the billing. “He sure has; he’s a good, hard-working kid,” says their chairman, Bob Arum. “He’s very talented; he’s going to be a big star in boxing. He’s going to be a very, very important star in pro fighting.”

Asked where he think he’ll be in six-to-12 months, Valdez says honestly, “I don’t know; I can’t really say. I would like to say a world championship but it’s hard to say. [Top Rank is] the ones who will decide and my manager will decide but I don’t know. I’m just going to take it fight by fight. Right now, I got my eyes on this fight, Alberto Garza, and I’m going to let them do their jobs.”

You get the sense this kid is going places. It’s just a matter of time and that word again: patience.

At the same time, however, you can sense the stakes are being raised.

“I feel as my career goes, the tougher the opponents are going to get,” said Valdez, whose record stands at 12-0 (11). “So this guy, Alberto Garza, that I’m fighting, he’s an experienced fighter. He’s fought a couple of guys with big names out there but I feel confident. It’s just more motivation for me because I’m fighting on HBO Latino. I know a lot of people are going to be there.


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