When all was said and done, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez remained by Oscar Valdez’s side for support.
And to offer plenty of advice.
The four-division titlist and reigning WBC/WBA/WBO super middleweight champion was ringside for and in the locker room after Valdez’s recent win over Robson Conceicao. Valdez prevailed by unanimous decision earlier this month at Casino del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater in the defending champion’s childhood hometown of Tucson, Arizona. The final verdict was disputed, however, by the viewing public as a healthy percentage of home viewers watching on ESPN platforms felt that Brazil’s Conceicao (16-1, 8KOs) deserved the nod and the title in the end.
Whatever the case, it was agreed by all—including those closest to Valdez—that the defending champion could have done a lot more to have made things much easier in his first title defense.
“You have to be patient,” Alvarez told Valdez after the fight, in a moment captured by Top Rank Boxing cameras and posted on its YouTube channel. “That’s why I was trying to tell you to use your feints and then throw punches. They duck down, you can’t get to them.
“But that comes with experience. The important thing is that you won.”
Alvarez and Valdez are both under the guidance of 2019 Trainer of the Year Eddy Reynoso, with Alvarez serving as a mentor to all of the gym mates in the San Diego training facility. Alvarez made a point to attend the show even while training for his undisputed super middleweight championship showdown versus unbeaten IBF titlist Caleb Plant (21-0, 12KOs), which takes place November 6 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Valdez (30-0, 23KOs)—who hails from Nogales, Mexico—lodged the first defense of the WBC junior lightweight title he claimed in an emphatic tenth-round knockout of long-reigning titlist Miguel Berchelt. While the win over Berchelt drew rave reviews, a swarm of negative publicity preceded the fight with Conceicao, little of which had to do with the matchup itself.
Valdez found himself in the middle of an unexpected drug testing scandal, after it was learned he tested positive for the banned substance Phentermine through testing contracted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). The August 13 test was an isolated incident, with Valdez producing samples which tested negative both before and after the incident in question while professing his innocence as a clean fighter.
The investigation into the matter undoubtedly produced restless nights for the unbeaten two-division titlist, who fell behind early on two of the three scorecards. Valdez closed the gap in the second half, only after Conceicao inexplicably abandoned his earlier game plan that produced far more favorable results.
Still, there was an easier way to have won the fight, or so believed Alvarez.
“When you have the type of fighter who moves a lot, you don’t have to throw a lot of punches,” noted the pound-for-pound king. “You just have to move in close and cover up (on the inside) otherwise they will counter you. You have to (cut off the ring), keep a high guard and punch (to the body) for the first few rounds.
“But you wanted to target (the head) and the opening wasn’t there. From here (hits body), you’ll start to find the target. You have all twelve rounds. You’ll learn, little by little.”
Valdez has trained in the same camp as Alvarez since linking with Reynoso in August 2018. The move came roughly four months after fighting through a broken jaw in an eventual twelve-round win over former titlist Scott Quigg in their April 2018 WBO featherweight title fight. Valdez is 6-0 (4KOs) since joining the team, having long appreciated not just the guidance of Reynoso but the active interest that Alvarez has taken in his career.
No resistance came of the advice Valdez fielded from Alvarez, vowing to do better next time around. For now, it was a lesson learned while escaping with his unblemished record still intact.
“Enjoy your victory,” stated Alvarez. “You deserve it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox