Photo by Chris Farina-Top Rank
Boxing returns to the newly renovated Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday. Headlining the card will be Juan Manuel Marquez, whose career comes full circle, having fought there 12 times in the mid-to-late 1990s. Marquez meets hard charging Mike Alvarado.
The undercard features rising featherweight Oscar Valdez. So far, the former two-time Mexican Olympian has won all 10 bouts to date inside the distance.
Fighting on such an illustrious card at a famed venue isn’t lost on the 23-year-old prospect.
“It’s just an honor for me,” Valdez told RingTV.com “A lot of people are going to be there to watch Marquez and I’m going be an earlier fight so they’re going to see me and it’s just a motivation and chance to prove who Oscar Valdez is.”
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum clearly recognizes his young fighter’s capabilities, waxing lyrical at Thursday's press conference at the Forum.
“One of the brightest lights in boxing, a young man we’re very high on,” the hall of fame promoter said of Valdez.
Though only Marquez-Alvarado is scheduled to take place on the HBO telecast, there are several other fights, including an interesting WBC junior welterweight final eliminator between unbeaten Viktor Postol and teak tough Turkish fighter Selcuk Aydin, that will be part of the international broadcast. Welterweight Brad Soloman and junior lightweight Diego Magdaleno also look to continue their careers on the undercard.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Noel Echevarria this weekend?
Oscar Valdez – I know he’s a southpaw, I know he’s Puerto Rican. I’ve seen two of his fights. I know he’s going to give it his all inside the ring like I am going to do. I’m expecting a good fight. I’ve been training real hard for this fight. I’m just going to go in the ring and give it my best.
AW – You’ve been a pro for 18 months now. How do you feel your career has developed to this point?
OV – I feel good, I feel real comfortable in the pros. I feel like I’m sitting down on my punches more. I feel like I’m getting better each fight, that’s what I plan on doing, each fight getting more experience and a step forward to completing my dream of becoming a world champion.
AW – This fight takes place at The Forum, which is steeped in boxing history. What are your thoughts about appearing on such an illustrious card?
OV – It’s just an honor for me, it’s just another motivation because (Juan Manuel) Marquez is a great fighter, he’s an idol right now for Mexico. You know Mike Alvarado is a warrior inside the ring, he never gives up, you know it’s going to be a good fight. It’s going to be a good card, it motivates me. A lot of people are going to be there to watch Marquez and I’m going be an earlier fight so they’re going to see me and it’s just a motivation and chance to prove who Oscar Valdez is.
AW – Who are the members of your team?
OV – I feel I’ve got the perfect team for me. I click with each and everyone on my team. My managers Frank (Espinoza) and Frankie Jr. (Espinoza’s son), my dad Oscar Valdez Sr., my trainer Clemente Medina, my strength and conditioning coach Mark Randall. It’s a perfect team, nothing can go wrong with that. I feel I’ve trained 100 percent for this, nothing is missing in my team and when nothing is missing I know I’m gonna give 100 percent in my fights.
AW – You fought at two Olympics. Can you tell us about each one and how they were different and about those experiences?
OV – It’s hard to explain, it’s the best experience of my life. Going to the first Olympics was a blessing, a gift from God. I had no experience. I was only 17. I had no international experience and I ended up qualifying.
The second Olympics, I actually gave 100 percent, I think I earned that one. I gave it my all and I felt I fought my heart out. It was a close fight with (John-Joe) Nevin. I take nothing away from him, he’s a great fighter. He’s a silver medalist. I gave it my best, he gave it his best, my trainers thought I won, the judges thought he won, I’m not the judge, I’m just the fighter. It was a great fight. As long as my people were happy, I was happy.
AW – Were you tempted to turn over after the first Olympics?
OV – Yeah, a lot, my dream was always to become an Olympic medalist, so I followed my dreams and stuck around for the next Olympics and I think it was one of the best choices I ever made. Nine out of 10 people told me to go pro, I just listened to me and my father and we stuck together and that opened a lot of doors for me right now. I think if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be in the situation I am now with great trainers and great people around me.
AW – Tell us about the rest of your amateur career?
OV – I finished with 204 amateur fights. I’m the first Mexican amateur to win the World Youth Championship (in 2008). I’m the first Mexican boxer to become a two-time Olympian (2008 and 2012). I’m the first Mexican to get a medal in the World Championships (2009). I made history as an amateur. I also won gold at the Central American games (2010) and I won silver in the Pan-American games (2011). I won gold in Baku, Azerbaijan at the World Championships (Presidents Cup 2008). I did a lot of things as an amateur.
AW – What was it like growing up in Nogales, Mexico?
OV – I love where I live. I think it’s the best thing that could happen to me, being born and raised in Nogales such a place where you could easily go and take the wrong side with the drug lords and get in gangs. Where I was raised in Nogales it’s real easy to just become a drug dealer. For me it’s an honor to stay away from that. I’m trying to get Nogales a good name, ‘cause Nogales has a bad reputation because of drugs and cartels. Knowing that I made it from there, it puts out a good example to my friends and the kids in Nogales that if I made it anybody can make it.
AW – How did you become interested in boxing?
OV – When I was small, my family was always passionate about boxing, they’ve always loved boxing. I think it was in my blood, my father was a boxer, he never turned pro but he was an amateur boxer. I tried each and every sport and the last one was boxing. I fell in love with it.
AW – What are your goals in boxing?
OV – Same goal as every other boxer, become a world champion and be one of the best and be someone like Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Jose Luis Castillo be a Mexican legend.
AW – Who is your boxing hero?
OV – There’s a couple of them: Julio Cesar Chavez, Jose Luis Castillo, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, all those guys are my idols.
AW – Away from boxing what do you enjoy doing?
OV – I like doing exercise, I love running, I love being with my friends from back home, going to the movies with my girlfriend. I’m just a simple man. I don’t really do much. I love being at my ranch at home, going out on horses and being with the animals.
AW – Lastly do you have a message for the boxing world?
OV – I just want to give a shout out to all my fans. I want to say thank you to each and every one of them for supporting me all my career as an amateur and now as a pro. I want to tell them I’m going to keep doing my best so I can keep giving good fights and hoping to become a world champion, that’s what everyone wants.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at email@example.com and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright