Valdez: Only Goal On My Mind Is To Beat Navarrete And Become Champion Again

Boxing Scene

GLENDALE, Arizona – Oscar Valdez hopes to one day bring greater clarity to a suddenly wide-open junior lightweight division.

That day won’t be Saturday, beyond it serving as a starting point for his get-back tour.

The former two-division champ aims to begin his third title reign as he challenges WBO junior lightweight titlist Emanuel ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete. The all-Mexico battle headlines an ESPN telecast this Saturday from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The winner will be viewed as the best of a 130-pound division that saw a void at the top after Shakur Stevenson ended his unified reign at the scales last September and moved up to lightweight.

For Valdez, a win on Saturday is merely viewed as a first step, simply because no other fight is on his mind. Unification bouts with recently crowned O’Shaquie Foster (20-2, 11KOs), WBA titlist Hector Garcia (16-1, 10KOs; 3ND) and IBF claimant Joe Cordina (16-0, 9KO) are of course the goal. But that comes after Saturday night—and is irrelevant without a win in the only fight on his schedule.

“Obviously once I am champion once again, I would love to fight any other champion, without mentioning any other names,” Valdez told of his immediate focus on the task at hand. “It’s a given that every fighter wants to be undisputed. That’s the main long-term goal for any fighter.

“For me, the only goal on my mind is to beat Vaquero Navarrete and become champion again.”

Valdez (31-1, 23KOs) held the WBO featherweight title for three years before he moved up to junior lightweight in 2019. The two-time Mexican Olympian claimed the WBC 130-pound belt in one-sided fashion, complete with a one-punch, tenth-round knockout of countryman Miguel Berchelt in February 2021. One successful defense followed before a lopsided defeat to Stevenson (20-0, 10KOs) in their WBC/WBO unification bout last April 30 in Las Vegas.

A return to the ring and win column came of his May 20 unanimous decision over Adam ‘BluNose’ Lopez. The fight was made after Valdez was forced to withdraw from a planned vacant WBO title fight versus Navarrete (37-1, 31KOs) after a prior back injury didn’t heal in time to proceed with their February 3 outing.

Valdez instead sat ringside as Navarrete survived his first career knockdown to drop and stop Australia’s Liam Wilson in the ninth round to become a three-division titlist. The same hosting venue for that night will also see Navarrete attempt his first title defense and Valdez bid to become a three-time titlist.

Only after Saturday night and with a victory is Valdez willing to discuss how things play out with anyone else in the division.  

“A big part of that is never getting ahead of myself,” stated Valdez. “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh I’m going to fight O’Shaquie Foster or the winner of Hector Garcia-Lamont Roach.’ I’ll never think like that when I have a fight in front of me. When I was fighting the rematch with Adam Lopez, everyone wanted to look past that and talk about Vaquero Navarrete. It was ‘No’ for me.

“Whatever anyone thinks of Navarrete, I had to have that same respect for Adam Lopez. We’re all fighters and we all train hard.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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