Shakur Stevenson still wants to fight Oscar Valdez at some point early in 2022.
The faster the favored Valdez defeats Robson Conceicao, the quicker, according to Stevenson, their 130-pound title unification fight can be arranged after he wins the WBO junior lightweight title from Jamel Herring on October 23. Stevenson-Valdez seemingly should be an easy fight to make if they win their respective bouts because they’re on similar schedules and both are promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
As much as Stevenson wants to become the first fighter to beat Valdez, the former WBO featherweight champion doesn’t think Valdez should be allowed to box Brazil’s Conceicao on Friday night in Tucson, Arizona, the adopted hometown of Mexico’s Valdez. Stevenson doesn’t understand how testing positive for Phentermine, a stimulant on the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s list of banned substances, didn’t force Valdez to at least postpone this optional defense of his WBC super featherweight title.
“He definitely shouldn’t be fighting,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “I’m with the people that think he shouldn’t be fighting. I think it’s cool for me cuz I still get the opportunity to fight him, but I do think that they kinda gave him a slap on the wrist and I don’t agree with the decision that they made. But I guess whenever I fight him, I’ll make sure VADA be on top of him a lot in camp.”
VADA visited Valdez and Conceicao throughout their respective training camps because both boxers are enrolled in the WBC’s “Clean Boxing Program,” a requirement for the Mexico City-based sanctioning organization’s champions and contenders. Las Vegas-based VADA oversees the WBC’s program, but the regulatory agency handling Top Rank’s event at Casino Del Sol allowed Valdez to box because the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission adheres to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s guidelines, which permit Phentermine as long as it isn’t used after 11:59 p.m. local time the day before an event, otherwise known as “in competition.”
Phentermine was detected in Valdez’s “A” and “B” samples collected August 13. The 30-year-old two-division champion claimed during an interview this week with ESPN’s Mark Kriegel that he doesn’t know how Phentermine entered his system and insisted that he has always been a clean fighter.
A skeptical Stevenson condemned everyone involved with allowing the 12-round bout between Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) and Conceicao (16-0, 8 KOs) to proceed as the main event of a nine-fight card ESPN+ will stream Friday night (10 p.m. EDT; 7 p.m. PDT).
“I feel like we definitely put our life on the line when we go in the ring,” said Stevenson, who will partake in a press conference to promote his fight against Herring on Thursday in Atlanta. “And, you know, it’s been a lot of death in boxing the last year. And I just feel like there’s people dying and putting they life on the line. I feel like there’s no reason why people should be able to cheat and get in the ring and get away with it. I feel like what [Valdez] was saying [to Kriegel] about people going to jail for, you know, cheating, and I think I agree with that. I think people should definitely be locked up for, you know, cheating because at the end of the day people’s lives are on the line.
“Like what if somebody go in the ring and you cheating – or even with this fight with Robson coming up – like God forbid, don’t get me wrong, like I wouldn’t want that to happen, nothing like that. But I’m saying what if [Valdez] hit [Conceicao] in the back of the head or hit him with a shot and he hurt him and then he end up in a coma? It’s a lot of stuff that can happen, so at the end of the day I feel like you shouldn’t be in the ring, cheating and getting away with it. I feel like boxing took a big step back when they did that, when they allowed Valdez to fight. And I don’t agree with it at all.”
Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) and Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) have agreed to comprehensive VADA testing in advance of their own ESPN main event, which will take place six weeks from Saturday night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The 24-year-old Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, has insisted on VADA testing for each of his past six fights.
Meanwhile, Stevenson cannot help but look at Valdez’s career-defining knockout of Miguel Berchelt differently now that Valdez has failed a VADA test.
Valdez battered Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) and dropped the favored fighter in the fourth, ninth and 10th rounds. Way ahead on points, Valdez viciously knocked out his countryman with a counter left hook in the 10th round
February 20 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Valdez, also a former WBO featherweight champ, passed all pre-fight and post-fight tests administered by VADA and the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Stevenson noticed a different version of Valdez versus Berchelt, though, and wonders whether Valdez should be given the benefit of the doubt amid this performance-enhancing drug ordeal.
“I done seen him fight a lot and just watching that fight, it looked like he was punching a lot harder than he usually was,” Stevenson said. “I think he dropped him a couple times, hurt him a couple times in that fight. And even like with the knockout, he kind of like had a nasty knockout on Berchelt, which everybody didn’t expect. But if he was cheating, like it takes away from the win.
“I feel like they should recrown Berchelt as champion and strip him of the belt and all that kind of stuff because he cheated. At the end of the day, you cheated. But I guess, you know, with the testing, you know, I hear that you can mask it and hide it in all kinds of ways, that you cheating. So, I guess he ain’t get caught. But it definitely [seemed] a little fluky to me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.