Wherever his fan base previously stood, Robson Conceicao has undoubtedly seen his popularity soar over the past two weeks.
The three-time Olympian and 2016 Olympic Gold medalist has emerged as the sympathetic favorite heading into his first career title fight. Brazil’s Conceicao (16-0, 8KOs) faces two-division and reigning WBC junior lightweight titlist Oscar Valdez this Friday on ESPN from AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona.
The bout has gained an uptick in media coverage, largely stemming from Valdez (29-0, 23KOs) testing positive for Phentermine as discovered through random drug testing contracted through Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). The matter made its way to the presiding Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission, who ignored VADA’s zero-tolerance stance on banned substances, instead honoring the code as put forth by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in permitting Valdez to proceed with the fight.
Left in the dark through all of this was this weekend’s challenger, who chose to keep his head down and work hard to get his 5’10” frame down to the junior lightweight limit.
“Not only the past week, all of training camp was difficult,” Conceicao acknowledged, doing his best to brush past the controversy. “As far as what took place (with the drug testing result), what happened has happened. There’s nothing I can do about that, other than concentrate on the fight and beating him to become the new world champion.”
Conceicao is a considerable underdog heading into the scheduled twelve-round main event. Valdez has half as many title fights to his name as Conceicao has pro bouts, and is expected to prevail in his first fight back in his childhood hometown in four years.
Fans angered by the turn of events over the past couple of weeks now turn to Conceicao to upset the odds, though he has carried that mentality all through camp.
“I am bigger than Valdez (in size) but he is the bigger name,” notes Conceicao, who at 5’10” enjoys more than a four-inch height advantage over the 5’5½” Valdez. “He is the Goliath in this David vs. Goliath battle. I’m here to slay Goliath.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox