Doug Fischer

Valero stops DeMarco, looks to bigger and better challenges

Edwin Valero (left) sustained a gruesome gash on his forehead after an accidental elbow from Antonio DeMarco (right) in the second round of their lightweight title bout in Monterrey, Mexico on Saturday. However, neither the blood nor DeMarco's tremendous heart could keep the Venezuelan KO artist from landing left hands and eventually stopping the game Mexican challenger. Photo / Tom Casino/Showtime

It’s easy to spot Edwin Valero’s flaws while watching the Venezuelan buzzsaw wildly blast through journeymen on Youtube.com.

It’s easy for most hardcore fans to envision a scenario in which a disciplined veteran fighter, perhaps a stick-and-move or counter-punching specialist, outboxes the power-punching southpaw. You don’t have to channel the spirit of Eddie Futch to come up with a solid gameplan to exploit the lightweight beltholder’s technical shortcomings.

But actually getting into the ring and beating Valero is anything but easy.

Just ask Antonio DeMarco, who was beaten into submission after nine game rounds against Valero in Monterrey, Mexico on Saturday.

DeMarco is a well-schooled young lightweight contender with textbook technique. The 5-foot-10 Mexican southpaw possesses an educated jab, good footwork, accurate combination punching, and an unyielding self-belief that was bolstered by three impressive stoppage victories over more seasoned fighters last year.

The 24-year-old Tijuana resident also proved to have a world-class chin and the heart of a champion on Saturday, taking Valero’s best shots round after round and retaliating in kind whenever he could.

DeMarco even appeared to have luck on his side when he inadvertently elbowed Valero in the face midway through the second round, opening a horrible-looking inch-long gash above the titleholder’s right eye. DeMarco landed a left cross that dislodged Valero’s mouthpiece before the end of the round, punctuating the KO artist’s bad luck.

Between rounds, Mario Morales, Valero’s trainer and cutman, told Steve Farhood of Showtime, which televised the fight live in the U.S., that he could not keep the gruesome cut from bleeding.

But neither the flow of blood nor DeMarco’s considerable physical tools and impressive intangibles were enough to contain Valero, who seemed to improve his game and display more talent with each passing round.

Valero (27-0, 27 knockouts) worked a hard jab that set up his overhand left, which he landed with frightening regularity. He employed underrated footwork to maneuver in and around DeMarco, while avoiding most of the Mexican’s straight lefts, and sporadically attacked the taller man’s thin midsection.

DeMarco (23-2-1, 17 KOs) was as tough and game as prize fighters get but by the middle rounds of the bout he was absorbing a beating. The eighth round was particularly punishing as Valero was able to score with both of his heavy hands. DeMarco appeared dangerously woozy while on his stool before the ninth round and his trainer Romulo Quirarte asked him if he could continue.

DeMarco bravely nodded yes and lasted one more round before Quirarte wisely advised referee Laurence Cole to end the contest. Valero led by unanimous scores of 89-81 at the time of the stoppage.

“Romulo is not just my trainer, he’s family, and he saw the punishment that I was taking,” DeMarco said after the fight. “I'm a Mexican fighter, I never wanted to quit but my trainer saw that Edwin was just a better fighter.”

Valero is a better fighter than most would acknowledge prior to Saturday’s bout

The 28-year-old bomber, who had never been featured on a non-pay-per-view broadcast in the U.S., won some new admirers among American fans with his performance, which the fighter rates as his best so far.

However, Valero still has his share of skeptics because while he was better than advertised, he was far from perfect.

And that’s part of what makes him so much fun to watch. There’s a tension to all of his fights because he looks so formidable and yet vulnerable at the same time.

His hands are down, his chin is up and his mouth is usually wide open as he lunges forward with his powerful left hand.

However, Valero is not that easy to hit on a regular basis as DeMarco found out. He can shoulder roll and step away from punches. He’s got nice lateral movement and hand-eye coordination.

And Saturday’s fight proved once and for all that the man who has scored 19 first-round knockouts is not a front-runner. Valero didn’t rush himself against DeMarco, and as he did in his 130-pound title-winning effort against Vicente Mosquera back in 2006, he finished stronger than his gutsy opponent did in a tough fight.

So what’s next for Valero?

Prior to facing DeMarco he said that his “dream fight” is a shot a welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound king who used to fight much like Valero does now.

“That’s the fight that all true fans want to see,” Valero said. “It would be explosive with lots of blood.”

It probably would be. Don’t put it past Top Rank boss Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters, to begin setting the stage for an eventual Pacquiao-Valero showdown. If any promoter can build that potentially explosive matchup into a major event it’s the veteran hall of famer.

However, Arum will tell anyone that an integral part of making Pacquiao into a viable opponent for Oscar De La Hoya, the fight that vaulted him into the heavier weight classes and international celebrity, was getting the Filipino icon a lightweight title.

Arum believed that Pacquiao would have been too hard of a sell had he been a junior lightweight jumping all the way up to welterweight, where De La Hoya agreed to meet him.

If Valero, a former junior lightweight who has only fought three times at lightweight, truly wants to challenge Pacquiao he’s going to have to step up in weight to the 140-pound division. If he can win a junior welterweight title he’ll be a three-division beltholder, which may lend some to consider him to be an elite fighter depending on who he fights. Thus, Valero would become a legitimate opponent for Pacquiao.

There is no shortage of talented young fighters in the 140-pound division, and the best is undefeated Southern Californian Timothy Bradley, who has the same promoter as DeMarco, Gary Shaw.

Representatives from Top Rank have already reportedly reached out to Shaw about a potential Bradley-Valero fight. Shaw says he has to check with Bradley’s manager (Cameron Dunkin) and co-promoter (Thompson Boxing Promotions) but is interested in the proposition.

The thought of a 140-pound showdown between THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight with the magazine’s No. 1-ranked lightweight is almost as good as the Pacquiao-Valero matchup, but all negotiations for the Venezuelan’s future fights must first wait for his current visa and licensing problems to be resolved.

Valero was denied a visa into the U.S. last year for a 2008 D.U.I charge, and his medical suspension in the U.S. (except for the state of Texas) due to a failed MRI exam in New York in 2002 has been well documented.

Valero and Arum are confident that both roadblocks can be worked out this year, perhaps before the summer.

Whenever and whomever Valero fights again one thing is for certain. Fans will be watching.

“The entire world is seeing a fighter ascending now,” Valero said of himself after beating DeMarco. “They’re going to be happy about the way he fights.”

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