It’s not often that Oscar Valdez is in a fight where he truly despises his opponent outside the ring.
There is a different level of appreciation for Emanuel Navarrete, whom he faces in a bid to become a two-time 130-pound titlist this weekend.
“With ‘Vaquero’, there is definitely a level of respect,” Valdez told BoxingScene.com of his countryman and reigning WBO junior lightweight titlist. “There’s no need to oversell this fight. But it is the battle of Mexico. It’s a civil war. You can only have one champion in each division where we’re from.”
The all-Mexico battle headlines an ESPN telecast this Saturday from the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Valdez (31-1, 23KOs) was due to face his countryman on February 4 in this very venue but had to withdraw from their vacant WBO 130-pound title fight due to a pre-existing back injury that never fully healed.
The two-time Olympian and former two-division titlist from Nogales was limited to role of spectator when San Juan Zitlaltepec’s Navarrete (37-1, 31KOs) instead faced Australia’s Liam Wilson, whom he knocked out in the ninth round to win the belt at stake this weekend. Valdez was in full support of Navarrete that evening and still carries a high level of appreciation for the three-division title claimant.
He will eventually find a way to flip that switch by fight night, though any pain inflicted will come from a place of passion rather than ill will.
“It’s one thing if he and I had a hate for each other but that’s not the case,” noted Valdez, who is coming off a ten-round win over Adam Lopez on May 20 in Las Vegas. “It could be a thing where you see it come alive in the ring. He has a fighting style where he doesn’t give up. You know I’ll never give up. I think it will fit perfectly for a classic fight.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox