Like so many boys growing up on the island of Puerto Rico, Luis Del Valle was enamored with boxing from a young age.
An avid admirer of the great Felix Trinidad, Del Valle (14-0, 11 knockouts) has come into his own as a pugilist, and continues his rise as one of boxing’s top prospects when he faces rugged Mexican spoiler Jose Angel Beranza (34-21-2, 26 KOs) on Saturday at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.
“[Beranza] already made a name for himself, he’s the one that’s always pulling the upsets,” said Del Valle. “He defeated Christopher Martin who was 23-0 and he’s given other Puerto Rican prospects the first losses of their careers. He went to the distance with a lot of big names. This is the challenge we now have in front of us and we’re ready.”
The 24-year-old junior featherweight made his national television debut last summer, a lopsided 10-round decision victory over Dat Nguyen in a headline bout on ShoBox: The New Generation. Del Valle’s speed and boxing ability overwhelmed Nguyen, an impressive performance which caught the attention of the public, many of whom were seeing “Orlandito” for the first time.
“I can go head-to-head or I can box,” said Del Valle. “Some boxers just come forward and that’s it. I have the talent and skills that I can put pressure on you or I can easily outbox you from the outside.”
The Bayamon, Puerto Rico native was a decorated amateur at 125 pounds. He won the National Golden Gloves in 2004, in addition to winning the New York Golden Gloves in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Del Valle trained in Newburg, N.Y., while competing in the New York Golden Gloves and often returns to the New York City suburb to work on his craft under his manager and trainer, Raymond Rivera. Del Valle calls Newburg “his home away from home” but fighting under the Puerto Rico banner is something very near and dear to his heart.
“In Puerto Rico boxing is like a religion, being around boxing we carry Puerto Rico with a lot of pride and it’s great,” said Del Valle. “It’s such a great feeling.”
Promoted by Lou DiBella, Del Valle has benefited greatly from Puerto Rico’s favorite son – “Tito” Trinidad. The future Hall of Famer dispenses advice to the young fighter, teaching him tricks of the trade, something Del Valle values greatly.
“Tito is like a living legend in Puerto Rico, I know him personally,” said Del Valle. “He’s just the kind of person who makes you feel like you’re a star. Tito has been retired for almost five years already and still everywhere he goes people stop and sometimes they gotta get him out of places because people want a piece of him. It’s such an honor having him as a role model.”
Del Valle also learns much about the sport from his cousin, former WBO bantamweight beltholder Rafael Del Valle. Del Valle knows it’s a matter of time until he becomes the second member of the family to own a belt, and to him it doesn’t matter who is in his way.
“Our goal is to finish the year with 18 or 19 fights and a title shot,” said Del Valle. “We want the belts and it doesn’t matter who has them, we’re coming for them.”
Photos / Scott Foster and Peter Frutkoff-Fightwireimages.com
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger