Oscar Valdez needed a late rally to eke past Brazilian Robson Conceição and retain his WBC super-featherweight crown at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson on Friday night.
After a controversial run-up to the fight where Valdez somehow negotiated a failed drug test for phentermine under VADA testing to hold on to his title (deemed ‘out of competition’ by the benevolent Pascua Yaqui Tribal Athletic Commission), the Mexican, once again, found all the cards stacked in his favour.
All three judges scored for the champion 117-110 and 115-112 (twice) in his adopted hometown, with Conceição harshly deducted a point, without warning, for a light rabbit punch in round nine. A harder Valdez rabbit punch merely drew a warning from referee Tony Zaino.
Cut under the left eye, Valdez ended the fight bruised and bloodied with a fresh-faced Conceição outlanding him 141 to 83, but the champion was deemed a clear winner after the Brazilian appeared to sweep the first five rounds behind a stiff jab and clever movement (one judge agreed, crucially the others only gave Conceição two and three of those sessions respectively).
But the two-division’s world title pedigree surfaced late on as Conceição faded under waves of pressure and stout body work. Valdez won the pivotal exchanges in the championship rounds. The Brazilian chose to showboat, angering Valdez, and the Mexican later accused his old amateur rival of ‘running’.
“I’m not a disrespectful man. He was disrespecting me, pointing at me and saying all this, man,” Valdez told ESPN. “I’ve been through enough. We won the fight. We do what we had to do and it’s on to the next chapter.
“He’s over here yelling in my face. We’re grown men. Don’t be yelling in my face. I understand you might be upset. Of course, you want to become a world champion. But don’t point at me. Don’t yell in my face. Don’t spit at me.
“It makes the fight complicated when someone is trying to run the whole fight. I’m trying to put on a good show for my fans, give the fans what they want, which is a good fight. If he wants to run… you can’t win a fight running like that.”
Away fighter Conceição believed he was the worthy winner. “This is boxing. I cannot go with his game. I played my game,” lamented the Brazilian. “Look at his face and look at my face. I have nothing on my face. Oscar’s is all fucked up. I won this fight.”
It was a close call for Valdez who can now potentially look forward to meeting the winner of the upcoming WBO 130lbs title clash between title holder Jamel Herring and former featherweight king Shakur Stevenson.
“I’ve been through a hard week,” said Valdez, who saw his legitimacy questioned after the failed test, which he maintains came through the innocent ingestion of a herbal tea. “I’ve been through enough. We all want the winner of Jamel Herring-Shakur Stevenson. Let’s do it.”
On the undercard, Japan’s Junto Nakatani retained his WBO flyweight belt in the fourth round after Puerto Rican Angel Acosta couldn’t continue after sustaining a broken nose in the early skirmishes. Referee Rocky Burke and the ringside physician called a halt to proceedings.
“I caught him in the first round right in the nose and I was able to use my pace to fight him, so that worked out really well,” said the champion. “I knew [I broke his nose]. I thought it was a good win. I want to unify the titles.”
Meanwhile, dangerous Mexican Luis Alberto Lopez upset previously undefeated Californian Gabriel Flores Jr. with a painfully dominant decision at 130lbs. Scores were 100-90 (twice) and 98-92.
“I really was expecting the fight to be stopped,” said Lopez afterwards. “I was looking at the referee or even at his dad. I was looking at him, and he didn’t want to keep going, but I couldn’t stop fighting. I just kept going, and they didn’t stop the fight.
Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.