Valdez vs Conceicao: Friday Night Fights preview – ESPN+
SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 9, 2021 – Oscar Valdez, a Mexican native now living in Southern California (29-0, 23 KOs), delivered the first “Fight of the Year” for 2021 with a brilliant performance blending high-level craft and high-powered punching to stop a brave but outgunned Miguel Berchelt of Mexico (37-2, 33 KOs) with an exclamation point knockout in February. So far, it’s still standing up as FOTY 2021 in September.
After the fight, Valdez seemed on a happy collision course with his Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson. But after WBO champion Jamel Herring demolished Carl Frampton and sent him into retirement two months later, a unification fight seemed possible and the more exciting choice.
But it’s boxing. The WBO ordered a purse bid for Herring and Stevenson as the mandatory challenger, and the pair agreed to a fight avoiding the purse bid, now scheduled for October 23. Valdez is likely to fight the winner. Meanwhile, he will make his first title defense against Robson Conceicao of Brazil (16-0, 8 KOs). The fight card airs Friday (NOT Saturday), September 10, on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
It isn’t uncommon for a new champion who fought as hard as Valdez to get a fairly easy matchup in his first title defense. Conceicao is taking a major step up in competition and should not present a big challenge for Valdez.
What’s the straight dope on Valdez?
The real challenge for Valdez is to his reputation after testing positive for the drug phentermine, a stimulant used for endurance. VADA bans it, and the WBC Clean Boxing Program prohibits it. However, the sanctioning body, the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Athletic Commission conveniently follows WADA testing rules. Testing positive for phentermine this far ahead of a fight is permitted due to its quick passing through the body.
Valdez claimed he didn’t know he had consumed it, and it was possibly in herbal tea he drank trying to kick his coffee habit. Valdez hasn’t ever struggled to make weight or raised any suspicions previously. Whispers connect the dots between the bad test and Valdez training with Eddy Reynoso at the Canelo Alvarez compound, similar to accusations about Alvarez passing off PED use by blaming it on tainted Mexican meat. The optics, as they say, aren’t the best.
Valdez and Conceicao fought each other as amateurs. The Brazilian won. “Everybody hates losing, and I’m one of them. I’m a sore loser,” said Valdez. Now that I get the chance to fight him as a professional, I’m taking this fight very seriously … I’m going to do whatever it takes and whatever I’ve got to defend my title and avenge my loss.”
Conceicao responded, “When I fought him, it was a tough fight. I fought him and the crowd, and it motivated me a lot and made me happy. Here we have the same thing. I fight against two opponents, him and the crowd, and I will be the winner.”
This will be Valdez’s first fight in front of a live audience since the pandemic started, including his championship victory in February. While Valdez should win easily in the ring Friday, he will still have to fight his way back from the suspicions, and it’s a shame he is even engaged in such a battle. Assuming he wins, he may get a shot at a unification bout with the winner of Herring vs. Stevenson early in 2022.
A true 50-50 fight: Nakatani vs. Acosta is the sleeper of the show
The headline fight on the undercard starting at 5:30 pm ET/2:30 pm PT could redeem the card and steal the show Friday. WBO Flyweight Champion Junto Nakatani of Japan (21-0, 16 KOs) and Angel Acosta of Puerto Rico (22-2, 21 KOs) are sure to please both boxing fanatics and casual fans both. With a combined 45 fights, 37 of them by stoppage, I’m not going out on a limb saying this fight won’t go the distance. Be in your seat on time and eyes front.
Nakatani appears in his first bout outside Japan, taking a significant step up in opposition. Acosta, a protégé of Miguel Cotto, will be without father-in-law and trainer Juan Muciño in his corner for the first time after his death earlier this summer. Acosta is now working with veteran Joel Diaz.
You don’t like to see a fighter tackling his second division title with a brand new (to him) trainer, but Diaz won’t try to reinvent Acosta so early in their partnership. This should be the fight of the night Friday, and I see Acosta hanging tough like he did against Kosei Tanaka – but this time winning by an attrition stoppage by round 10 or later.
Also on the undercard:
Flashy 19-year-old prospect Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico (9-0, 7 KOs) faces Jose Luis Sanchez of Albuquerque (11-1-1, 4 KOs). Sanchez won a majority decision over Adrian Granados in May and should give Zayas some rounds, but he poses little threat to the young power puncher.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow Gayle on Boxing Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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