Oscar Valdez vs. Andoni Gago in the works for Jan.12
By Chris Williams: WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) is in negotiations to defend his title against Andoni Gago (20-3-3, 6 KOs) on January 12. This will be the first fight for the 27-year-old Valdez since he suffered a broken jaw last March against Scott Quigg.
Gago is a six-year pro from Spain, who has lost to Scott Quigg by 9th round knockout in 2017, and beaten by contender Viorel Simion in 2016. Gago has never beaten anyone of note. He’s generally been beating journeyman and domestic level opposition in Spain since he turned pro in 2012. When Gago did try stepping it up against Quigg and Simion, it didn’t workout well for him. It’s asking a lot for a fighter of Gago’s class to compete with a champion like Valdez.
Valdez has reportedly made changes to his fighting style recently to become more defensive, considering he’s taken a lot of punishment in his last three fights against Quigg, Genesis Servania and Miguel Marriaga. Valdez was hurt in each of those fights by hard head shots. Some boxing fans believe that Valdez’s punch resistance isn’t the same since the Marriaga fight. Valdez was wobbled badly by Marriaga on a couple of occasions in their fight last year in March 2017. Valdez did win the fight by a 12 round decision, but it was far from an easy one for him. Marriaga rallied late and looked like the stronger guy at the end.
It’s unclear whether the World Boxing Organization will sanction the Valdez-Gago fight, since the 33-year-old Gago isn’t rated in the top 15 by their organization. Sometimes things like that have a way of working out though with fighters suddenly appearing in the top 15 rankings overnight. It’s quite possible we could see Gago showing up in the WBO’s top 15, which would make the Valdez fight less of a problem in the eyes of the boxing world. It’s hard for the top contenders to see a 2nd tier fighter being given a title shot ahead of them. On the flip side, you can understand why a fighter like Valdez would want to take a tune-up fight after the bad jaw injury he suffered against the powerful Scott Quigg eight months ago in March. However, Valdez is a world champion, and some boxing fans feel that it’s not fair for the top 15 contenders to have a belt holder defend his belt against lower level fighters. The logical thing for a champion like Valdez to do would be for him to vacate his WBO title if he feels he needs to take on a non-contender for a title defense, but obviously he’s not going to do that. It comes down to what the WBO is comfortable with. If they’re good with their champions bypassing the top contenders to take tune-up fights in title defenses of their belt, then they can give the Valdez vs. Gago fight the green light. But if they care about wanting their top 15 contenders to get title