With three world champions and a fourth in mandatory position for a title shot, Los Angeles is home to the best of boxing’s featherweight division.
Oscar Valdez, the unbeaten World Boxing Organization champion, has a Saturday night fight at StubHub Center to test his theory that he will ultimately emerge as the best in the field.
Confronting a game test against England’s former super-bantamweight champion Scott Quigg (34-1-2, 25 knockouts), Valdez (23-0, 19 KOs) sees the ESPN-televised main event as his chance to insert himself into that conversation.
“This is the type of fight I need. By taking on Scott Quigg, now I’m starting to get the bigger crowd and become better known,” Valdez said last week during a training session in Norwalk.
“You age quickly in boxing. At 30, you can be old. I’m 27 and I want to get involved in as many big fights as I can and I want to be known and make a bigger name for myself.”
Quigg was champion for six fights until losing his only fight to 2016 fighter of the year Carl Frampton by split decision. He then aligned with seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach of Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club, and is looking to add a second division belt.
Todd DuBoef, president of Valdez’s promoter, Top Rank, said he has come to envision Valdez the way he watched International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Erik Morales and member Marco Antonio Barrera, also Mexican nationals.
“This is one piece of the next chapter. This is a really tough fight stylistically for Oscar, like Junior Jones was for Morales,” DuBoef said. “Quigg makes it a crossroads fight that Oscar has to step through … and if you look at Oscar’s path, he has seized the opportunity every time it’s been there.
“His mastery of English is a nice hook, but he has delivered and is so damn telegenic. It’s been a wonderful performance every time. He definitely entertains.”
Things were more exciting than Valdez wanted in September, when he said he became caught in the frenzy of a strongly supportive crowd in Tucson, near his dual-border hometown as a youth in Nogales, Mexico, and found himself knocked down by challenger Genesis Servania in the fourth round.
Valdez answered by dropping Servania in the fifth, and winning a unanimous decision.
He celebrated with his grandfather, who at that time was under pressure for possible deportation to Mexico after immigration officials confronted him as a result of a traffic ticket.
“We’re hearing good news, that it’s close to being settled, but I don’t want to jinx it,” Valdez said of his grandfather’s plight. “This is nonsense and cruel, with a president we have criticizing not only Mexicans, but other Latinos, Muslims, all sorts. It’s a shame he’s our president.
“I try to be the perfect example of what a Mexican in America is. We come to do better things, not to be criminals, murderers, drug lords. On the contrary, most are coming here to have a better life and to help this country.”
The champion decided after the September difficulty that he needed to work harder in his Norwalk gym, and vowed that the dedication will be seen Saturday night.
Watching his fighter exercise last week, Valdez manager Frank Espinoza said, “From the time I first saw Oscar in 2008, I always knew he had it in him to be a champion. He’s stylistic, can punch, can move.
“He’s on his way. This fight is a big step, taking on a former champion in a marquee fight, wanting to produce a spectacular performance. He wants to fight the other champions … everyone.”
The others are full World Boxing Assn. champion Leo Santa Cruz and secondary champion Abner Mares, who will stage their all-Southland bout June 9 at Staples Center. Los Angeles’ Joseph Diaz Jr. is the World Boxing Council’s No. 1 contender and mandatory foe for champion Gary Russell Jr.
It would be a thrilling round-robin of local fights if Valdez’s promoter, Bob Arum, Santa Cruz-Mares manager Al Haymon and Diaz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, can cross party lines.
“Oscar will fight those guys,” DuBoef said, acknowledging a fight with former featherweight champion Frampton might come next. “It is a rich, deep division. … It’s a matter of us sitting down and working it out.”
For now, Valdez said he feels “set to the side” by his more senior fellow featherweight champions and neighbors Santa Cruz and Mares.
“It’s either because they don’t think I’m a threat or maybe they think I’m a big threat. I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter,” Valdez said. “One day, we’re going to get in the ring and I’m going to prove I’m worthy of being the ultimate champion.”
Main Event: Oscar Valdez (23-0, 19 KOs) vs. Scott Quigg (34-1-2, 25 KOs), for Valdez’s WBO featherweight title
Where: StubHub Center
When: Saturday, first fight 4:35 p.m.; television card begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $27.50, $53, $104, $206
Undercard: Erick DeLeon (17-0, 10 KOs) vs. Andy Vences (20-0, 12 KOs), super-featherweights; Alex Saucedo (26-0, 16 KOs) vs. Abner Lopez (25-8, 21 KOs), junior-welterweights; Arnold Barboza (17-0, six KOs) vs. Mike Reed (23-1, 12 KOs), junior-welterweights; Mikaela Mayer (3-0, two KOs) vs. Maria Semertzoglou (7-3, two KOs), lightweights