Oscar Valdez Dreams

Photo by JP Yim

Oscar Valdez Dreams of World Titles Could Come True on Saturday

By David A. Avila

Oscar Valdez lives in an offbeat world filled with dreams of raising alligators and of course, winning the featherweight world championship.

Take a bite out of that.

“I have two alligators,” said Valdez, 25, adding that they live on a farm.

With one dream achieved, next is winning the world title.

Valdez (19-0, 17 Kos) faces another undefeated contender in Argentina’s Matias Rueda (26-0, 23 Kos) on Saturday July 23, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They will be fighting for ownership of the WBO featherweight title. HBO pay-per-view will televise.

Since age eight the Mexican-born Valdez has dreamt of boxing glory. He’s won status as an amateur world champion and was a two-time Olympian for Mexico. Now he’s within days of a world championship.

One who saw Valdez’s potential early was his manager Frank Espinoza, who has guided the careers of multiple world champions such as Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez, Martin Castillo, Abner Mares and many others.

“I think he’s shown that he is very special,” said Espinoza who first saw Valdez when he was 17. “He can be the next Mexican idol. No question.”

The Valdez family moved to Tucson, Arizona early in his life to give him access to better education and accommodations. Recently, Valdez moved to Lake Elsinore, Calif. but trains in Carson.

“He wanted to live near his trainer Manny Robles,” said Espinoza, adding that Robles lives in Lake Elsinore too.

Trainer Robles has deep roots in the boxing game. His father Manny Robles Sr. was a legendary boxing trainer in Southern California. Now Robles Jr. carries the torch and trains multiple prizefighters at the Rock Boxing Gym including Irish prospect Jason Quigley, heavyweight contender Dominic Breazeale and light heavyweight Alexander Brand who fights Andre Ward next month.

In Valdez, the veteran trainer Robles sees a prizefighter primed and polished to battle for world championship status.

“His last couple of performances have been pretty spectacular,” said Robles. “He’s following instructions and his demeanor is on point.”

Valdez proved far too strong and fast against former featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich who was knocked out in the fourth round this past April in Las Vegas. Before that, Valdez stopped Ernie Sanchez and Chris Avalos before either fight could reach the sixth round. Following each win, Valdez looked unblemished.

Argentina’s Rueda, 28, has never been defeated either and has knocked out 23 of 26 opponents.

“He’s your typical Argentinean they are hard-hitting punchers like Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana. They depend a lot on their punch,” said Valdez during a televised press conference. “I’m not going to stay and wait to see who hits the hardest. I’m going to be the smarter fighter.”

Both his trainer and manager credit Valdez with innate intelligence and extreme focus on preparation.

“He’s always in good shape,” said Espinoza. “In the evenings he’s always running.”

Valdez says it’s an old habit of his that he can’t bite off. He likes to run, even on his off days, and he likes to play with his alligators when not training.

“I don’t know why, I just like alligators,” said Valdez who named one alligator “Steve” after television’s late Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin. The other is named Rex. “But I’m careful with them.”

The alligators live on a farm in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Valdez has other missions to tend.

“My dream is to become a world champion. For me this fight means the world,” said Valdez. “I want to take that belt back to Mexico.”

Where his alligator named Steve can see it.