By Jim Dower: WBO World featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) weighed in at 125.8 pounds for his fight on ESPN this Friday night against unbeaten #4 WBO contender Genesis Servania (29-0, 12 KOs) at the Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona. The 26-year-old Servania weighed in at 125.4 lbs.
Valdez, 26, is hoping to have an easier time on Friday dealing with the Filipino Servnia compared to in his last fight against the hard hitting Miguel Marriaga on April 22. Valdez was forced to go the full 12 rounds against him in inning a unanimous decision. That was not an easy fight for Valdez despite him winning by a wide decision by the scores 119-108, 119-108 and 116-111.
Marriaga hurt Valdez a couple of times in the fight with big shots. Even when Marriaga wasn’t staggering Valdez, he was hitting him very hard. Marriaga forced Valdez to take a lot of punishment in that fight to earn his win. We’ll need to see how the punishment that Valdez took affects him, because it’s been only 5 months since that grueling fight. The one thing that Valdez has going for him against Servania is he’s not a big puncher. He doesn’t pack the kind of power needed for him to hurt Valdez, but he does have some pop in his punches, and he’s very fast. What Valdez doesn’t need is to have to go 12 rounds again in back to back fights, because that means he’ll need to take a ton of punishment. The younger 26-year-old Servania doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him. Valdez can ill afford to lose to Servania if he wants to keep headlining his own cards.
Valdez was a good amateur fighter in competing in 2 Olympics in 2008 and 2012, representing Mexico. Valdez was eliminated in both Olympics without winning a gold medal.
As a pro, Valdez had looked good in winning his first 21 fights. He didn’t have problems until facing Marriaga. Valdez looks like a good fighter, but he doesn’t appear to be on the same level as 2-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, who also fights for Top Rank. Valdez also doesn’t appear to be on the same level as WBC champion Gary Russell Jr., Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton. You have to pick Valdez to beat the other featherweights in the division. Joseph Diaz Jr. could give Valdez some problems. Super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux would likely beat Valdez is given the chance to fight him, which he likely won’t unless he gets beaten by Lomachenko in December.
”I would love to get the knockout,” said Valdez. ”It’s not something I look to do in the first or second round but if I hurt I would do my best to stop him but my mindset is always 12 rounds. If I don’t knock him out I am 100% ready to go 12 rounds, whether that’s going toe-to-toe or boxing, whatever,” said Valdez.
It’s Valdez’s desire to go for knockouts is what makes him exciting to watch, but it also makes him vulnerable to getting hurt. Marriaga took advantage of Valdez’s tendency to want to slug by hurting him with some of his own big shots. Marriaga had no problems whatsoever in finding Valdez in their fight last April. Valdez was just lucky that Marriaga was so limited. If he had a little more boxing ability he might have won the fight.
Servania is a real question mark going into this fight on Friday. Servania’s opposition has been poor throughout his boxing career, and it’s hard to know how good he is. Servania did beat Rafael Concepcion by a 2nd round knockout on October 26, 2013. Concepcion went the 12 round distance with Nonito Donaire in 2009. Concepcion is a prey good fighter. Beating him by a knockout shows that Servania is someone not to be overlooked. Besides the win over Concepcion, Servania has also recent wins over Alexander Munoz, Ralph Jhon Lulu, Alexander Espinoza, Hendrik Barongsay, Juan Luis Hernandez and Jose Cabrera. Munoz, AKA “El Explosivo,” is a former super flyweight world champion. However, by the time that Munoz met up with Servania, his best years were well past him. Indeed, Munoz has been fading since losing his WBA Word flyweight title to Cristian Mijares on May 17, 2008. Never the less, Servania’s win over Munoza says a lot about the kind of talent that he has, as he made it look easy in beating him.
Arum is counting on Valdez becoming a big star in boxing. He’s the one that’s getting a huge push by Top Rank due to his crowd-pleasing fighting style. He’s like a mini-Gennady “GGG” Golovkin for the featherweight division. The difference is Valdez brings a certain sense of drama to his fights that Golovkin doesn’t. You don’t know whether Valdez can win, as we saw in his last fight.
”It’s very important for ESPN who is now going to be able to showcase Oscar on the worldwide leading sports network at least three times a year,” said Arum. ”We are going to have him matched against top-top featherweights and junior lightweights and the audience that we’ll be attracting starting September 22nd will be absolutely huge and so Oscar will go in the same realm as the other superstars in boxing.”
Arum is in charge of the match-making for Valdez. Unless he can start doing business with the other promoters, it’s going to be hard to turn Valdez into a huge star in boxing. He’s not going to become a star being matched against the likes of Servania, Hiroshige Osawa, Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda and Evgeny Cradovich. Valdez needs to be able to fight guys like Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Scott Quigg, Gary Russell Jr., Abner Mares and Joseph Diaz Jr. Those guys are with other promoters, and I would be very surprised if Arum can match Valdez against any of them. Besides that, those would be awfully tough fights for Valdez to try and win. It’s going to be tough enough for Arum to transform Valdez into a star in boxing because he fights in the featherweight division. Historically, there hasn’t been any fighters from the featherweight division that has been able to rise up to become a star in the U.S. That might happen in other countries, but not in the U.S. It’s going to take something special for Arum to turn Valdez into a huge star. It’s good that Valdez is fighting on ESPN, but that might not be enough unless he can fight all the top guys in the division.
In the co-feature weights, WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs) weighed in at 167.8 pounds for his title defense against mandatory challenger Jessie Hart (22-0, 18 KOs). Hart 28, weighed in at 167.7 lbs. This will be the second defense of Ramirez’s World Boxing Organization title. Ramirez, 26, beat Max Bursak by a 12 round unanimous decision on April 22 in his first defense of his WBO title. This was after Ramirez had been sidelined for 12 months with a hand injury after defeating WBO champion Arthur Abraham by a 12 round unanimous decision in April 2016. Ramirez wants to become a big star in the super middleweight division, and he’d like to fight unbeaten middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, but thus far nothing has happened. Good things happen to those who wait, as the saying goes. If Ramirez is going to become a big star in boxing, he’s going to need to wait until he can get the bigger names in the super middleweight to fight him. Beating Hart won’t do much to increase Ramirez’s star power unfortunately. For Ramirez to become a name guy, he needs a good scalp like Golovkin, Chris Eubank Jr., James DeGale and George Groves. Getting those guys to take a risk to face the lanky 6’2” Ramirez could prove near impossible unless Bob Arum lures them with some money. If he gives them an offer that they can’t refuse, then he’ll likely snag one or two of them to come over to the U.S to face Ramirez. Arum would need a lot of faith to believe that Ramirez could get the job done against the likes of Eubank Jr., DeGale and Groves. Right, now, it’s far from a sure thing that Ramirez could beat any of them.
Also on the card is unbeaten featherweight prospect Michael Conlan (3-0, 3 KOs) fighting Kenny Guzman (3-0, 1 KO) in a scheduled 6 round fight. Conlan is a 2016 Olympian that Top Rank is high on. Conlan looks very raw at this point, and it’s unclear whether he’ll pan out at the pro level. Conlan didn’t look so good in his 3rd round knockout win over Jarrett Owen on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn card on July 2, at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Conlan was getting hit a lot in that fight, and he did not look like a future world champion or even close to one.
The Valdez vs. Servania fight boxing career starts has a start time at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
When and where to watch Valdez-Servania: On Friday on ESPN.
Location of fight: Tucson Arena in Tucson, Arizona:
Promoters: Top Rank.