Newly crowned WBC junior lightweight world champion Oscar Valdez’s first title defense is likely to come against amateur nemesis Robson Conceicao in August or September, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com on Monday.
“We’re planning a Valdez fight against Conceicao. That’s a good fight,” Arum said of a bout that would headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card and take place at a site to be determined but with fans now that many states are opening up for at least limited capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s a tough, good fight. Oscar figures to win but the other guy, Conceicao, is an Olympic gold medalist, undefeated and he beat Oscar in the amateurs. He’s not a concussive puncher, but he’s very skillful. It’s a tough fight. Without (Eddy) Reynoso (as Valdez’s trainer) I would make it a much closer fight. (Conceicao) is very excited.”
Frank Espinoza, Valdez’s manager, told BoxingScene.com that he and Arum are indeed discussing the fight, one he said that Valdez wants.
“That is the projected opponent that they presented to us,” Espinoza said. “Right now nothing is set in stone but that’s a good fight. Oscar will fight anybody and I know it’s a fight Oscar would be interested in fighting.”
The reason is because Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs), 30, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian from Mexico, would like to gain revenge for a significant amateur loss to Conceicao (16-0, 8 KOs), 32, of Brazil. In the 2009 Pan American Games finals in Mexico City, Conceicao won a four-round decision over Valdez to win the gold medal. Conceicao would go on to win an Olympic gold medal in front of the hometown fans at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
“Oscar would love to avenge that loss to Conceicao now that they are pros. He would love that,” Espinoza said. “Oscar wants to make history. He wants to fulfill his legacy and fight the best out there. There’ interest on our side in that fight, absolutely.”
After six WBO featherweight title defenses Valdez vacated the 126-pound belt and moved up to junior lightweight in 2019.
e won two nontitle bouts by knockout and then, as the mandatory opponent, challenged WBC 130-pound titleholder Miguel Berchelt on Feb. 20 inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and scored an unexpectedly decisive victory.
Valdez was the underdog but he dominated the entire fight. He knocked Berchelt down in the fourth and ninth rounds before drilling him with a massive left hook in the 10th round for a knockout of the year contender to win the title.
Conceicao turned pro a few months after winning the gold medal in 2016 and has been brought along by Top Rank, which signed him out of the amateurs. He is coming off a seventh-round knockout of Jesus Antonio Ahumada inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand on April 10.
There had been discussion of a Valdez possibly next facing Top Rank stablemate Jamel Herring (23-2, 11 KOs), who retained his WBO junior lightweight title for the third time by impressive sixth-round knockout of former two-division world titleholder Carl Frampton on April 3 in Dubai.
Arum, however, said that while that fight is still possible it would not be next.
“I would like Oscar to fight Conceicao, then maybe Herring,” Arum said. “Herring looks like he’s not going to fight (mandatory challenger) Shakur Stevenson, so he can hang around and fight (somebody else) and then Oscar (if he beats) Conceicao, and build toward (a possible) Oscar-Shakur Stevenson fight. That would be a big fight.”
Former featherweight titlist Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) is due to fight South Africa’s Jeremiah Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs) for the vacant WBO interim junior lightweight belt on June 12 in the ESPN main event at the Virgin Hotels in Last Vegas. He was Herring’s mandatory challenger but stepped aside to allow him to fight Frampton first. If Herring vacates or is stripped, Stevenson-Nakathila would be for the vacant title.
“That’s what it seems like,” Arum said of Herring giving up the title. “’Bomac’ (trainer/manager Brian McIntyre) says he’s trying to talk him into taking the fight with the winner of the Shakur-(Nakathila) fight.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.