GLENDALE, Arizona — The visual damage on his face was all the explanation that anyone was owed from Oscar Valdez.
Ever the proud in-ring warrior, the former two-division titlist still felt the need to address his supporters after coming up short in a bid to enter a third title reign.
Valdez was forced to fight through what is believed to be a broken right orbital bone in a twelve-round, unanimous decision defeat to Emanuel Navarrete. Scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 landed in favor of Navarrete, who successfully defended his WBO junior lightweight title in an all Mexico-clash Saturday evening at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“I’m sorry I disappointed everyone,” Valdez said after the fight, though there was not a single disappointed soul among the 10,246 in attendance. “He is a warrior. I tried my best. We gave it our best. He is a warrior. He is a true champion.”
Valdez (31-2, 23KOs) previously held the WBO featherweight and WBC junior lightweight titles. He entered Saturday’s ESPN televised main event as the challenger but as the betting favorite versus Navarrete (38-1, 33KOs). The bout came three months after a ten-round win over Adam Lopez on May 20, his first fight since a lopsided defeat to Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10KOs) in their WBC/WBO junior lightweight unification last April 30 in Las Vegas.
Navarrete overcame inflammation on the middle knuckle of his right hand to not just defeat Valdez, but land enough left hands to compromise his vision. Valdez was forced to contend with swelling and bruising around his right eye which was completely shut by the end of their terrific twelve rounds of action.
The decision itself was a letdown to the pro-Valdez crowd but not to the point where anyone felt cheated by fight’s end. Still, it wasn’t the outcome envisioned by Valdez, a two-time Mexican Olympian who was determined to join the short list of Mexico’s all-time greats.
“I feel terrible. I wanted to give you all a great fight,” noted a dejected Valdez. “I hope you enjoyed the fight. I hope to return strong.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox