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Oscar Valdez defeats Chris Avalos by TKO in featherweight bout

Oscar Valdez defeats Chris Avalos by TKO in featherweight bout
Oscar Valdez, shown celebrating a victory last year overNoel Echevarria, defeated Chris Avalos on Friday night in Las Vegas. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

The Southland was already deep in talented featherweight boxers.

Oscar Valdez moved up in weight Friday and enriched the field beyond expectations, scoring a fifth-round technical knockout of Lancaster's Chris Avalos at the Cosmopolitan.

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Valdez (18-0, 15 knockouts), a two-time Olympian from Mexico who resides in Lake Elsinore, impressively outboxed the tough Avalos (26-4) in the first two rounds, knocked him down in the third with a left hook to the face and then went for the finish.

"That was the plan: Get him frustrated, be the smarter fighter, and if I had the chance, hurt him," Valdez said, adding that Avalos "has heart, he wanted to keep going even after he was done."

The Southland also boasts World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and his recent challenger Abner Mares.

"He's going to be terrific," said Bob Arum, Valdez's promoter. "Not an easy fight tonight. He made it look easy. A good step-up fight for him … and that left [hand] … "

Valdez's manager, Frank Espinoza, said his fighter's marked improvement has him positioned for a title shot within a year.

Valdez flashed his skill throughout the fight, ducking a right and landing a right to Avalos' face in the first round. In the second round, an impressive combination was followed by the better end of a late exchange.

By the third round, Valdez was unloading punches when a left hook to the jaw floored Avalos, who again was wobbled at the end of the fourth.

The stoppage came on a hard left to the face that caused referee Russell Mora to rush in and halt the action.

Earlier, Philadelphia's Jesse Hart steadily swung vicious punches at Aaron Pryor Jr., dominating the super-middleweight bout until he won by technical knockout at 2:51 of the ninth round.

Hart (18-0, 15 KOs) unleashed a barrage that left Pryor (19-9-1) defenseless, including a right uppercut that snapped Pryor's head back. Seconds later, referee Tony Weeks moved in to stop the bout.

Hart's ferocity won him every round on all three judges' scorecards. His powerful rights to the head frequently sent Pryor to the ropes, desperate for answers. A few wicked body blows left Pryor wincing.

"You've got to keep your composure when you're in a fight like this," Hart said. "He was grabbing and holding. It was my body shots that broke him down and I was able to stop him."

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