By Manouk Akopyan

Earlier this month, Oscar Valdez vacated his WBO featherweight title because it was time to move on from the 126-pound division, a weight class he’d been fighting at his entire career.

Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs), a two-time Mexican Olympian who made six successful defenses of his title before moving up in weight, has been given a date of Jan. 11, 2020 by his promoter Top Rank to officially make his junior lightweight debut, his manager Frank Espinoza told

Espinoza said he prefers Valdez to have a 10-round tune-up fight for his 130 pound debut in November before the WBC and WBO No. 1 ranked fighter likely faces Miguel Berchelt and Jamel Herring in 2020.

“Oscar is always in shape and likes to stay busy,” said Espinoza. “He’s a special fighter. He didn’t necessarily leave the 126 pound division too soon. He felt that it was the right time. He grew into 130, and his body was asking for him to move up. We’re interested in fighting all of the world champions at 130.”

Valdez was put in a precarious position by holding the WBO crown.

The sanctioning body sent touted Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson as his mandatory challenger. Instead of prematurely pumping the brakes on each other’s undefeated careers, Top Rank won the $1.5 million purse bid and Valdez ultimately decided to move up and focus on other Top Rank titleholders in Berchelt and Herring.

Now, Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) will face the Espinoza-managed Joet Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs) for the title Valdez once owned.

Manouk Akopyan has been a member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011 and has written for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Guardian and Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at