Glynn Evans delivers the skinny on Mexico’s liver chopping WBO Featherweight king who defends for a third time live on BoxNation this Friday.
1) Oscar Rafael Valdez Fierro was born in the plant manufacturing Mexican border city of Nogales on the 22nd December 1990. He is the eldest of eight children from a broken home. His father, an ex miner and one time amateur boxer, serves as his assistant trainer today. His childhood hero was Tijuana’s four weight world champion Erik Morales.
At the age of one, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona, and Valdez is bilingual. He returned to Nogales, aged ten, but has residence in Lake Elsinore, two hours from his training base in Carson, California.
2) The 5ft 5 ½ in featherweight had the first of his 204 amateur fights (27 losses) at the age of nine and evolved into Mexico’s greatest amateur ever. Aged just 17, he shocked Sinaloa’s future WBC Super-Flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras en route to the Mexican national title. Same age, and with just three international bouts on his ledger, Valdez qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but was eliminated in the first series by the eventual gold medallist from Mongolia.
Also in 2008, Oscar won the sombrero nation’s first ever World Junior championship on home soil in Guadalajara and, a year later, added Mexico’s first medal at the Milan World Seniors, claiming bronze after losing to a certain V. Lomachenko (Ukraine) in the semis. He fought briefly for the Mexico City Guerreros in the World Series of Boxing (2010-11 season) and, in 2012, further enhanced his legacy by becoming Mexico’s only dual Olympian, losing in the quarter-final to Ireland’s John Joe Nevin at the London Games.
3) In late 2012, vicious Valdez signed a five year promotional deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank corporation, perfectly fitting the company credo of ‘ability and marketability.’ Humble, handsome and articulate in both English and Spanish, the Azteca action man is the face of Wild Cat energy drinks and boasts a pet alligator called ‘Steve’. He previously owned two crocodiles!
Incorporated in 1973 and based in Las Vegas, the company has a long association with Mexican fighters, having steered Oscar De La Hoya, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales to the fore. Valdez is managed by LA based businessman Frank Espinoza and trained by Manny Robles at The Rock Gym in Carson, California.
4) Since debuting with a two round stoppage win in Hermosillo, Valdez has fought just once since in his birth land, blitzing Cristian Barajas in just 87 seconds in Tijuana in December 2013. All other gigs were contested in the south-west US states of Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California. Within a dozen starts, the heavy hooking Hispanic had captured NABF Junior titles at both featherweight and super-featherweight.
He first emerged as a serious contender in the 2015-16 campaign, smashing 26-3 ex IBF Super-Bantam challenger Chris Avalos in five, then snapping the jaw of Russia’s ex IBF Feather boss Evgeny Gradovich (wrsf5). Prior to first challenging for a world title in his 20th fight, Valdez was taken the distance just twice; Juan Ruiz lasting eight rounds in July 2014 and Ruben Tamayo surviving ten in June 2015.
5) Oscar’s scheduled July 2016 shootout with 26-0 (23) Argentine banger Matias Rueda was upgraded to full WBO title status at just two days notice after Vasyl Lomachenko abdicated to pursue his goals at 130lbs. Valdez’s preparation was further disrupted by the death of his cousin on a motorcycle accident, barely a month before. Nevertheless, heading the undercard for the Crawford-Postol super-lightweight unifier at a ram packed MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Valdez barely broke sweat, dispatching his co-challenger with signature crippling body shots inside six minutes. His perfect 22 fight slate lists 19 quick wins but Valdez is yet to taste the canvas himself.
6) Both of his title defences thus far have come against the number one contender. In November 2016, he inflicted a savage seven round beat down on Japan’s Hiroshige Osawa (just three losses in 37) on the Pacquiao-Vargas undercard at the Thomas and Mack in Vegas. Valdez registered a knockdown in round four and was ahead 60-53 on all three cards when the carnage was curtailed.
Last April, he fulfilled his mandatory obligation and completed 12 rounds for the first time against 25-1 Colombian clubber Miguel Marriaga, whilst topping the bill before 5,419 at California’s StubHub Center. Valdez scored a spectacular knockdown in round ten and triumphed by margins of eleven, nine and five points, scores which failed to do justice to the competitive nature of a riotous slugfest.
7) This Friday the 26 year old returns to his childhood home of Tucson to front a bill at the Convention Center, putting his belt up for tender against 26 year old Filipino Genesis ‘Azukal’ Servanis. The challenger - an eight year pro - is unbeaten in 29 (12 early) and ranked fourth by the WBO. In 2014 Servanis scored an impressive twelfth round stoppage over Venezuela’s one-time WBA Super-Flyweight boss Alex Munoz and he has previously triumphed overseas in Japan, Dubai and Macau. Clearly, he’s no patsy.
Nevertheless, with ESPN cameras rolling in the US and BoxNation screening live in the UK, the marauding Mexican knows another high action, hard hitting display will edge him closer to the unification fights that will bolster his profile and swell his bank balance. Like all Mexicans, he craves the green WBC belt (presently in the custody of Gary Russell Jr) while future shootouts with LA based Latinos Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares, who both hold portions of the WBA’s fractured title, would do big business in California. Welshman Lee Selby (reigning IBF monarch) is another attractive option.