Changes in the corner for Oscar Valdez
On a rainy – and memorable – night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on March 10, Oscar Valdez paid a heavy price in defending his WBO featherweight title versus Scott Quigg, who didn’t come close to making the 126-pound limit for that contest.
Facing a much heavier Quigg, the hellbent-for-leather Valdez stood in there for 12 physically taxing rounds to pound out a hard-earned unanimous decision.
However in the process, he suffered a fractured jaw and was rushed to the hospital in the immediate aftermath of the fight. What was supposed to be a banner 2018 campaign was instead put on hold. While Valdez may have won the battle, many wonder if the long-term war was lost, in regard to this career.
Valdez, 24-0 (19), told UCNLive.com last week, “It took me around two months for me to kinda start eating because, for two months, I had my mouth wired (shut). When they took it away, it still took me another week for me to even open my mouth because my body got used to having my mouth shut. So it was definitely a difficult time for me not being able to eat when I had my wires taken out but that’s already in the past. Hopefully I wont have to go through that again.”
If there was a positive to all this, it’s that, despite being laid up, Valdez didn’t put on much weight.
“My stomach got small being that I couldn’t eat that much,” he explained. “It took me another good month for me to eat like I usually eat.”
Last week Valdez began training in earnest in Guadalajara, Mexico, under the direction of Eddy Reynoso, best known for his work with middleweight champion Saul Alvarez. Reynoso replaces Manny Robles as Valdez’s trainer. “We’re barely getting to know each other,” he said. “It’s been going well. I’ve been doing his workouts right now. The first two days, it’s been very technical. We’ve been working a lot on technique. Obviously our defense because that’s something I’m mostly criticized on – my defense,” he said on October 3.
— Oscar Valdez Fierro (@oscarvaldez56) October 9, 2018
Again Rome was not built in a day.
“It’s only day two and, so far, I like it,” Valdez continued. “So we’re working on a lot of technique. I can’t wait to really start working hard but right now we’re working on technique and getting to know each other.”
And yes, head movement, defense and utilizing intelligent lateral movement are being stressed by Reynoso, which are strengths of “Canelo.”
“Obviously everything that has to do with defense we’re going to work on. We talked a couple times already and he has some good ideas,” said Valdez, who, despite his undefeated record, had recently gone 36 hard rounds versus Miguel Marriaga, Genesis Servania and then Quigg. While he eventually reached the desired destination in these victories, the miles on the odometer were quite demanding.
“We were looking at the big picture,” said Valdez’s manager Frank Espinoza, who spent last week in Mexico with his fighter and new trainer. “He was winning but there was a certain price that was paid in each of those fights and, to me, that was alarming. Part of my job is to make sure that the long-term best interest of Oscar is looked after and I was very concerned over just how hard these recent fights were for him.”
Espinoza didn’t want his fighter to be 27 going on 35, prematurely.
“A boxer pays the price for every fight he goes through; that’s just the game. But there comes a point where, if he’s not developing as you believe he should, that you start to think about making changes,” said Espinoza, who says he liked how Reynoso was jelling with Valdez. “I really liked what I saw between them, a lot of teaching and doing things in there that I believe will extend his career.”
When Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, which promotes Valdez, was asked about the change of trainers, he stated, “It’s hard for me to say because obviously he was getting hit too much but he made very exciting fights. Now you can’t tell whether that’s because of his style or that’s because of who was training him. Sometimes you have a guy who’s training him who’s very, very cautious but the kid goes out and it’s just balls to the wall. That’s the kind of fighter he is, so I Manuel Robles is a very, very good trainer and obviously Reynoso’s a very good trainer and if the kid feels more comfortable with Reynoso, then that’s the call he makes – he and his manager.”
That said, just going to the bullpen doesn’t necessarily ensure improved results.
“Boxing is so psychological that if a fighter feels more confident with a change, sometimes it just happens because he feels more comfortable,” Arum pointed out. “I’ve seen that happen so many times. So again, if he went and switched trainers and went to be trained by some guy who really is not a good trainer, then we would interfere or try to interfere.
“But obviously he’s going from Manny Robles, who I think is a good trainer, and he’s gone to Reynoso, who has great credentials as a trainer. So that’s a choice for the boxer and the manager.”
As for Valdez’s return, the hope is he can get return to the ring in December. The question is – regardless of whom is in his corner – will he ever be the same guy he was before the Quigg fight? That is the great unknown for Oscar Valdez, who, against the wishes of his manager, decided to face the Brit on that night. However he admits now that, “I would not make the same decision about fighting a guy that’s overweight.”
He makes it clear though that he doesn’t necessarily regret the decision to move forward with the Quigg fight.
“Definitely if I could go back in time and take the fight again – I’d definitely do it because, even though I had my jaw broken, even though I had a tough fight that could change a lot of things in my career, it did give me a lot of credit,” said Valdez, whose passion for the sport has never been questioned. “It did give me a lot of exposure out there. If there were a lot of doubts from certain people, maybe I didn’t have heart, maybe I didn’t have the guts to go all 12 rounds toe-to-toe, well, I showed it that night.
“So I got a lot of respect from a lot of people, a lot of good comments. So if I were to go back in time, I’d take that fight again. But I would never do it – after that fight – and give the same advantage I gave to Scott Quigg.”
On this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” you’ll hear from Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn and Mario Lopez and I discuss all things boxing and the recent UFC event:
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