Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Two weeks ago, Top Rank’s blue chip lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo made his HBO debut and impressed with a dominant performance against a game Ivan Najera. Saturday night, it was the turn of a highly touted featherweight to take his opening bow on the network, and while Oscar Valdez could not reasonably have been expected to shine as brightly as his stablemate – nor did he – he did show enough to suggest that he is a talent well worth following, albeit one who also needs a great deal more seasoning before he is ready for the genuinely big time.
The night got off to a less than an ideal start for the undefeated Mexican, who represented his country at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. After clearly getting the better of opponent Ruben Tamayo in the opening frame, he was shockingly dropped onto his rear at the end of the round after walking in to a left hook – although replays showed that his compatriot had in fact stepped on his foot.
Thereafter, Valdez dominated. On the plus side: he showed excellent footwork for a fighter with just 17 pro bouts under his belt, frequently landing a punch and pivoting away, resetting and landing another punch from a different position before Tamayo had the chance to react. He threw those punches with genuine commitment, too, digging to Tamayo’s head with crunching hooks and short right hands. And the movement of his head and upper body caused most of Tamayo’s slow, wide counters to miss their mark entirely.
The less good: he showed a tendency to reach with some of those punches, smothering his own power by falling into his opponent as he threw, and he left himself open enough that a better fighter might be able to have more success with his own offense. Still, he’s young, and this was his first 10 round contest; it seems a reasonable assumption that he has bigger and better evenings ahead of him.