As we head into a big weekend of fights, there is something that is almost impossible to find.
Anyone that is picking Oscar Valdez to defeat Shakur Stevenson in this junior lightweight unification bout that takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Seriously, do you know anyone that is tabbing Valdez?
This is certainly a highly anticipated match-up of two well known and accomplished boxers, who come in with unblemished records. But while it's Valdez (30-0/23 KOs) who is the more seasoned and accomplished professional, it's almost unanimous that the precocious Stevenson(17-0/9 KOs) will unify the belts.
Originally the odds for this fight started at around 3-to-1 in favor of the slick southpaw from Stevenson, and have steadily climbed to a point where they now hover above 6-to-1. The sharps are all going one way, here.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Still, there is great anticipation for this bout given the stakes. The winner of this clash will not only walk away a unified champion, but will most likely be listed in those mythical pound-for-pound lists that many take so seriously. But what's on the line goes far beyond that.
For Valdez, who has won titles at 126 and 130, pulling the upset would mean that he can really start to state his case as a future Hall-of-Famer. While he has a gaudy record, and was able to derail Miguel Berchelt last year to win the WBC belt, that victory is now looked upon with some suspicion given what happened before his very next bout. With a win over Stevenson, he is clearly the biggest Mexican star not named Canelo Alvarez.
Last summer he tested positive for a banned substance in a pre-fight VADA test prior to his bout with Robson Conceiaco. Valdez then fought in a fog for much of the night in Tuscon and was fortunate to escape with a unanimous decision. He left with his belt, but a tarnished reputation. You get the sense he demanded the Stevenson fight as a way of clearing his good name.
As for Stevenson (who actually made his pro debut back in April of 2017 on a Valdez undercard), the best way to describe him is ambitious. This young man from Newark believes he's destined for greatness, and from the very beginning has insisted to be put on the fast track. Even as a young, fledgling prospect, Stevenson was calling out Valdez, while he was the WBO 126-pound belt holder.
Eventually, he would have to settle for taming the respected Joet Gonzalez to win that title as Valdez moved up. Then last October, he stopped Jamel Herring in 10 rounds in Atlanta, to capture the WBO 130 pound belt he now has. He's already a two-time world champion in less than 20 fights. Stevenson was never going to be marinated, he was microwaved.
"I am the best 130-pound fighter in the world, and I will prove it when I beat Oscar Valdez and become unified champion. I won’t stop there, though. I want to become an undisputed champion at 130, and beating Oscar Valdez is the next step," said an ultra-confident Stevenson, during a conference call with reporters.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
The best way to describe his style is stealth. He has a way of standing right in front of you and seemingly disappearing, becoming almost impossible to land on, while simultaneously picking you apart with sharp salvos that don't see till they've already made contact. There are certain boxers with a natural radar (think of Wilfredo Benitez, or Pernell Whitaker), Stevenson is one of them with that rare gift.
Can Valdez break through this seemingly impenetrable defense? Or will he be neutralized like every other opponent that has been made impotent by Stevenson?
Valdez took this bout, partly for redemption, and secondly because he believes in himself. And he might be the only one.
"The odds are against me, and everyone thinks that he will walk all over me, but just like against Berchelt, I will use that as motivation," he promised. "I know I have a tough fight in front of me, but this is not something that I haven’t done before. I have worked very hard in the gym, and as always, I’m going to give it my best and leave it all in the ring.
"Like we say in Mexico, I'm willing to die on the line just to win. That’s all that matters to me.”
Meanwhile at the Madison Square Garden in New York on the same night, all the belts are on the line for the female lightweight title between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. These two ladies will be headlining this card which will be streamed by DAZN.
They have billed this as the biggest and most important female fight in boxing history. It remains to be seen what type of lasting impact it will have in the future, but it has created some legitimate buzz. Both boxers were featured on the 'Today' show on NBC on Tuesday.
According to promoter Eddie Hearn, as of Wednesday morning they are at around 14,000 tickets sold at MSG, and he would be surprised if this event isn't a complete sell-out come fight night. According to Hearn there is no stated rematch clause for Taylor-Serrano, but if the fight on Saturday warrants another chapter, it could certainly happen. The fact that this is already a commercial success makes this a possibility, at the very least.
Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Sports
One of the reasons why you can make the meaningful fights in women's boxing more often is that they simply aren't bogged down in the promotional politics and network alliances like the men's side of the business. Or at least, not to that degree.
Perhaps in the future that will change, but maybe that's when we will know that the woman's game has truly arrived when they start talking about 'sides of the street'.
The Taylor-Serrano fight, will not take place at the same time as Valdez-Stevenson....The ESPN broadcast on Saturday night begins at 10 pm, ET/7 pm, PT....Looking forward to seeing Keyshawn Davis and Abdullah Mason on the Top Rank undercard this weekend....Jessie Vargas faces Liam Smith on the Taylor-Serrano card at the Garden...Matchroom Sports announced that they will be going to San Antonio on June 25 with a card that will be headlined by Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez facing Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, along with unified 122-pound champion 'MJ' Akhmadaliev taking on Ronnie Rios. It's an excellent card.....PBC announces that WBC featherweight titlist, Mark Magsayo, will face Rey Vargas at the Alamodome on July 9....I'm not sure if 'Winning Time' on HBO is getting better or worse....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....