Oscar Valdez does indeed want to fight Shakur Stevenson.
BoxingScene.com confirmed Sunday that representatives for Valdez and Stevenson have nearly completed a deal for those rivals to meet in a 130-pound title unification fight that ESPN executives expect to air April 30 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Valdez owns the WBC super featherweight title and Stevenson holds the WBO junior lightweight title.
Former BoxingScene.com contributor Dan Rafael first reported Sunday that Valdez and Stevenson are nearing a deal.
Stevenson, a southpaw from Newark, New Jersey, has publicly questioned Valdez’s willingness to fight him since Stevenson was the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Valdez’s WBO featherweight title. Valdez vacated that championship and moved up to the 130-pound division instead of making an obligatory title defense against Stevenson, who won the unclaimed WBO 126-pound crown by easily out-pointing Joet Gonzalez in October 2019.
Bob Arum – whose company, Top Rank Inc., promotes Stevenson and Valdez – had pushed for Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) to box WBO featherweight champ Emanuel Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) in his next fight. Stevenson criticized Arum publicly for not wanting him versus Valdez next.
Valdez apparently grew tired of hearing and reading that he has been avoiding Stevenson and also pushed to make what will be a difficult fight for the native Mexican. Though Valdez dominated countryman Miguel Berchelt on his way to a surprising 10th-round knockout last February 20 at MGM Grand Conference Center, he figures to have a tough time dealing with Stevenson, a highly skilled, intelligent technician who is one of the best defensive fighters in the sport.
The 24-year-old Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, overwhelmed Jamel Herring with his speed and skill in Stevenson’s last fight. Stevenson beat Cincinnati’s Herring (23-3, 11 KOs) by 10th-round technical knockout October 23 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta to win the WBO 130-pound crown.
Stevenson was the mandatory challenger for Herring’s title.
The 31-year-old Valdez had a tougher time in his first defense of the WBC belt than he did while battering Berchelt. Valdez beat Brazil’s Robson Conceicao (16-1, 8 KOs) by unanimous decision September 10, but their 12-rounder was competitive at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona.
Valdez also caused controversy because he tested positive for Phentermine nearly a month before he encountered Conceicao.
Phentermine, a stimulant banned by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association both in and out of competition, was detected in Valdez’s “A” and “B” samples provided August 13. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission approved Valdez’s license application because all state and tribal commissions in the United States that are affiliated with the Association of Boxing Commissions adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards, not those established by VADA.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.