By Austin Killeen June 9, 2019
Saturday night ESPN showcased WBO featherweight champ Oscar Valdez in the sixth defense of his crown against undefeated challenger Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez. ESPN had their top broadcasters working the microphones; Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley, Andre Ward and Mark Kriegel. Long before Valdez or Sanchez got near the ring, the four announcers were selling the hype and it was working. Clearly it was all about the champ with little hope of Sanchez accomplishing much. The one exception was Timothy Bradley, who expressed the opinion that Sanchez was a live underdog.
The opening round was fought at a face pace. Sanchez seemed to be throwing everything hard while Valdez seemed content to establish distance more than throw for power. The commentators felt that Sanchez was risking fatigue throwing everything with such intensity. Clearly the opening round had a lot more liveliness than your typical feeling out round. Rounds two and three the champ started finding a home for right hands to the head and body. He had nice footwork scoring with left hooks to the body. Fighting from a wider stance, the challenger was having success with overhand rights. But he appeared to be tight and short with many of his punches. Clearly Valdez was winning the early rounds. I felt Sanchez looked good in the fourth behind his jab and overhand rights, but the commentators felt otherwise. They felt he was playing it safe and needed to take more chances. Early in the fifth round Valdez dropped the challenger with a clean left hook to the head. This was a solid round for the title holder and he was clearly looking for more opportunities. Valdez continued to press his attack in the sixth looking for openings. What was even more impressive was his defense, he was not easy to hit in spite of being right in front of his opponent.
Valdez opened the seventh behind some powerful shots to the head and body. But Sanchez answered back forcing the champ to fall back to the ropes. It captured the attention of the ringside commentary and Sanchez was scoring off his powerful left jab for close to a minute. The final forty seconds of the round featured powerful punches by both boxers, clearly this was the best round of the fight. The final five rounds clearly belonged to Valdez, scoring clean punches with both hands. Sanchez was in excellent shape otherwise he never would have finished the fight. When Valdez attacked Sanchez would dig deep and fire back, forcing the champ to reset. The last twenty seconds of the twelfth round Sanchez appeared to be in big trouble. The decision was just a formality; I don’t see how anyone could have scored the bout for the prideful Sanchez.
Other than the welterweight division, the featherweights are the most talented in boxing. For some time now, I’ve felt Leo Santa Cruz was the best 126 ponder, having beaten a long list of talented boxers. But Oscar Valdez has gotten my attention, he’s the complete package; offense, defense and power in both hands. I would love to see a Santa Cruz/ Valdez title fight; it has all the makings of a classic. If both parties can sit down and agree on money and location let’s get it on.
Obviously, I wanted “El Alacrancito” to win, but it wasn’t in the cards. He has a great left jab, but Valdez has a better one. However, I feel that he left the ring a better fighter than when he entered it. He’s not ready for the top 126 pounders in the division yet. He should stay clear of Abner Mares, Carl Frampton, and Scott Quigg; I don’t care how much money is on the table. He should cheery pick the bottom half of the top ten and former contenders who are on the back nine of their careers. This would allow him to refine his style and improve lateral movement. This fight was all about risk vs reward and apparently, he received a solid paycheck for Saturday night. He fought with pride and made Albuquerque proud. God bless Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez!