Oscar Valdez was having such a hard time making the 126-pound limit, it was easier to vacate the WBO featherweight title he successfully defended six consecutive times than go through the arduous task of cutting weight.
A two-time Mexican Olympian, Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs) will be making his 130-pound debut Saturday in Las Vegas against Adam Lopez (13-1, six KOs), so he didn’t get to enjoy the spoils of a traditional holiday spread on Thanksgiving because of the unforgiving scales.
Lopez, who’s from Glendale and trained by Buddy McGirt, is a late replacement opponent for Andres Gutierrez, who presumably could not pass up his Thanksgiving dinner and weighed 11 pounds over the limit Friday. Gutierrez was subsequently scratched.
“I trained hard for three months making the sacrifices, and I am very upset with Andres. He was unprofessional,” Valdez said. “It could be hard to move up in weight because your opponents hit harder, but I’m in tremendous shape. ... I give credit to Adam for stepping up.”
Valdez has competed as a featherweight his entire career, and he believes the extra four pounds he doesn’t have to shed will make a major difference come fight night. He suffered a litany of injuries since winning the title in 2016.
His jaw was broken during a fight against Scott Quigg in Carson, but he fought through the final seven rounds to score a unanimous decision, a win Valdez considers his most complete performance as a professional.
“I get reminded a lot about my jaw,” said Valdez, whose jaw was wired shut for a couple of months, “but it’s not something that I really think about.”
After the Quigg fight, Valdez switched trainers, replacing Manny Robles with Eddy Reynoso, the longtime coach to Canelo Alvarez.
This will be Valdez’s third fight with Reynoso as his trainer after returning from an 11-month layoff following the Quigg fight. The 28-year-old said he’s reached a comfortable state with his new coach and credits him for improved counterpunching and waist movement — two staples of Alvarez’s.
“I truly have learned a lot from Eddy since Day 1,” Valdez said. “We’ve had great training camps, but with this one in particular, I feel that I’ve finally adjusted to his style and we really know each other. We keep on improving.”
Valdez considers his style revamped from his amateur days, when he represented Mexico in the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012. Valdez was born in Mexico but went to elementary school in Tucson. After his parents divorced, he moved back to Mexico, where he’s lived in Hermosillo, relocating to Southern California for training camps.
“I’m different in a good way. I’ve improved a lot,” Valdez said. “I don’t know a lot of former Olympians who give wars. But I’m going to be ready for my first test at 130.”
If Valdez wins, next could be one of the 130-pound class’ biggest punchers, World Boxing Council junior-lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt.
“He’s the best 130-pound fighter out there right now,” Valdez said, “and he’s my target to beat.”