WBO Champion Oscar Valdez

Photo by Al Applerose

WBO Featherweight World Champion Oscar Valdez

By David A. Avila

Welcome the Inland area’s newest world champion Oscar Valdez who ripped through Argentina’s Matias Rueda in a battle of undefeated fighters to win the vacant WBO featherweight world title.

Valdez (20-0, 18 Kos), who lives in Lake Elsinore, needed only a total of 5 minutes and 18 seconds to prove superiority against the unknown Rueda (26-1, 23 Kos) who sported an impressive knockout record at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday.

It took little time for Valdez to unravel his arsenal of speedy left hooks, right counters and punishing body shots. The Argentine from Buenos Aires seemed surprised and bewildered by the firepower unleashed by Valdez.

“Rueda was really strong,” said Valdez. “After he hit me with a shot I said OK, this is the real deal.”

Valdez erupted with a flurry of blows and combinations that wobbled Rueda quickly in the fight in the first round. In the second round Valdez lowered his attack.

“I hit him with some body shots and he took them very well. In my mind we were going to go 12 rounds,” Valdez said. “In the second round I concentrated on digging to the body.”

Rueda went down twice for the count. The second time Rueda was declared by the referee unfit to continue.

Despite the abrupt ending, it was the end of a journey that took many years to get to a world title said Valdez.

“It’s a dream I had ever since I was eight years old,” said Valdez who was born in Tucson, lived in Nogales, Mexico and now lives in Lake Elsinore. “It’s a dream I shared with my father to become a world champion.”

The victory was a clarion call to all featherweights that a new major player has hit the boxing world. Though Valdez was not on the main event, his win proved to be the most impressive on the pay-per-view card.

“I think we have a new major super star,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum that promoted the fight card.

Valdez was the first to make two Olympic teams for Mexico but fell short of winning a gold medal in 2012. He settled for a bronze medal after losing to Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko who won the gold. Ironically, the title won by Valdez was recently vacated by Lomachenko who is moving up to the super featherweight division and higher.

“I think it helped me a lot (to lose) because I know how it feels to lose and I did not want to lose this dream of winning a world title,” said Valdez, 25, who is managed by Frank Espinoza. “I’m never going to forget this, winning a world title.”

Now the Inland Empire can add another boxing world champion to its roster along with Mikey Garcia, Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley, Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin, Kaliesha West, Sugar Shane Mosley, Julio Diaz, Antonio Diaz, Sindy Amador, Alberto Davila, Mike Weaver, Rich Sandoval, Randy Caballero and Manuel Ortiz.

It’s an ever growing list of world champions. Who will be next?

A number of solid contenders live in the Inland area from Indio to Pomona including Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, Hector “Finito” Tanahara, Murat Gassiev, Felix Diaz and Konstantin Ponomarev. Any of these fighters is capable of grabbing a world title if given the opportunity.

But right now, it’s Valdez time.

His manager Espinoza has managed other champions and seen them come and go.

“I expected him to do well but this win was something else,” said Espinoza. “He’s special.”