Oscar Valdez vs Osawa

Photo by Al Applerose

Oscar Valdez Makes First WBO World Title Defense in Las Vegas

By David A. Avila

Everyday featherweight world champion Oscar Valdez runs around Lake Elsinore, but lately, he’s been picking up followers along the path who tag along as he glides along the sidewalk. It’s one of those “Rocky” movie moments.

“Now when I go to run I have people try to stick with me and they congratulate me all the time,” said Valdez who before winning the title was virtually unknown. “It’s different but I like it. I like this lifestyle. It’s crazy but I love it.”

Winning the WBO featherweight world title last July brought fame and adulation but Valdez knows it can all come crashing down.

“I have a lot of friends who have been champions and they say it’s not hard to get there, but it’s hard to maintain,” Valdez, 25, said.

Valdez (20-0, 18 Kos) looks to maintain his hold on the WBO featherweight title when he faces Japan’s Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19 Kos). They meet at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday Nov. 5. It will be televised on pay-per-view.   

Since childhood Valdez has kept a laser like focus on becoming a boxing hero like Julio Cesar Chavez who reigned during the 1980s and 90s. With constant support from his father Oscar Sr., becoming a world champion is just one leg of the ladder. Chasing Chavez can be like chasing a cloud.

First things first for Valdez.

When Valdez grabbed the world title by knocking out Argentina’s Matias Rueda in two rounds with a systematic attack last July in Las Vegas, more than a few skeptics cited the quality of the opposition. Forget that Rueda was undefeated and had 23 knockouts in 26 fights. They claimed he was “a nobody.” But they also fail to remember when a nobody from Argentina named Marcos Maidana arrived and knocked out Victor Ortiz to the shock of many. Maidana would later defeat Adrien Broner and give Floyd Mayweather far more trouble than Manny Pacquiao.

Ironically, Pacquiao headlines the fight card on Saturday when he challenges Jessie Vargas for the WBO welterweight world title.

Valdez openly speaks of attaining the marquee status of Pacquiao and Chavez. He knows there’s no easy path.

Japan’s Osawa at 31-years-old has never fought for a world title though he possesses a strong record and impressive knockout resume. Lately, fighters from Japan have shown to be a force from middleweights to light flyweights. How good is Osawa?

“Nobody knows much about Osawa except that he is the number one contender,” said Frank Espinoza who manages Valdez. “I saw some tape on him but it was only one fight.”

Espinoza, who has managed many world champions in the past, believes Valdez has “special talent” and continually impresses.

“Oscar has more than 200 amateur fights and was a two-time Olympian so he’s seen all of the different styles,” says Espinoza who lives in Southern California. “He has a lot of skills and that powerful left hook. But most of all he has that speed you can’t teach and good defense.”

But chasing living legends like Chavez and Pacquiao can be a daunting task.

“Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about this. I dreamed about having my own belt and being a world champion and having media follow me,” says Valdez. “I dreamed of walking the streets and everybody recognizing me. I dreamed about this. Now’ I’m just living the dream.”

Fans are chasing Valdez as he chases legends.