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Héctor ‘El Travieso’ Valdez: The Storm is Coming!

Image: Héctor ‘El Travieso’ Valdez: The Storm is Coming!

By Michael Frank @ringsidemike: Golden Boy’s rising prospect Héctor Valdez Jr. is looking to make some noise in 2021. ‘El Travieso’ started the year off with a bang, earning the unanimous decision victory over Alberto Torres in an 8-round super bantamweight contest.

Valdez easily took care of business at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 20th. Fighting on the Vergil Ortiz Jr. versus Maurice ‘Mighty Mo’ Hooker undercard in front of his hometown fans, Valdez Jr. improved to 14-0 as a professional in a dominant fashion. With trainers Robert Garcia and Hector Beltran in his corner, Valdez easily outscored Torres on all three scorecards for the win.

The first few rounds started off slow as each fighter looked to execute their game plan. 34-year-old veteran Torres is a crafty southpaw who uses a lot of movement, constantly moving to his right. This gave Valdez problems early on, as he typically likes to stay in the middle of the ring, maintaining his position. In the 3rd round, Valdez ramped up his aggression, using the straight right jab and left hook combination to gain control of the fight. The 4th round proved to be the turning point of the fight, as ‘El Travieso’ started to get in a groove.

When I spoke with Valdez, he admitted that he became frustrated early on because he “wasn’t able to execute the game plan and land the punches I was practicing while sparring.” Originally his trainers wanted him to focus on the right uppercut, but once that wasn’t working, they were forced to switch the approach mid-fight. “He was doing something different from what we watched on film, so we had to change it up.” With the aid of renowned trainer Robert Garcia, the mid-fight switch worked to perfection. Valdez dominated Torres in rounds three through six, ramping up the energy in the arena.

In the 7th round, it appeared that Valdez was slowing down a bit, but it turned out to a part of the game plan. Robert Garcia wanted his young fighter to save his energy for the 8th and final round. By design, Valdez took his foot off the gas in that 7th round but came out firing to begin the final round. His energy level seemed to be at its peak as he wrapped up the victory. When asked about his conditioning level, he said, “I was in the best shape of my career up to his point; I could have easily gone 10 or even 12 rounds.”

Stepping up to a 10-round bout is exactly what Valdez and his team intend to do in 2021. When I spoke with his manager, Jason Fowler, he was confident in saying, “Héctor is ready for 10-round fights now, from what we talked about after his fight on the Ortiz card was how he was in such good shape and wasn’t tired at all, he felt it was his best fight as far as conditioning. I think Golden Boy will do one more 8-round fight, hopefully, in May/June, and then he will be moved to 10-round fights after that. But if they gave us a 10-round fight tomorrow, we would take it and feel more than comfortable with it”.

After securing his first win of 2021, Valdez and his team have intentions on staying very active going forward. Critics have grown concerned about the inactivity of Valdez, having only fought once in both 2018 and 2019, followed up by only two fights in 2020. But what the critics don’t know is what happens behind the scenes. Analysts are quick to jump the gun about a fighter’s inactivity, but it’s not always the fighter’s fault or choice. Management problems in the past have slowed down the progression of the young warrior’s career.

Valdez regretfully admitted, “I would take any fight regardless of who or where when I was younger, I just wanted to fight.” A prime example of problems with his management team came early on in his professional career. Valdez received a check of $1 for one of his fights, strictly because you have to be paid per fight. He still has the check today to remind himself daily of where he started. Since then, he has signed with Jason Fowler and Elite Sports and Entertainment Management Group and is now promoted by the popular Golden Boy Promotions. He has progressed both as a fighter and a man and is dedicated to taking his career to the next level.

Valdez is eager to get back in the ring, suggesting he would be ready to fight as soon as May. He and his manager are on the same page and ready to sign whatever contract comes their way. Fowler said, “ I would like to see him back in the ring in May/June at the latest. Héctor wants to fight 3-4 more times this year and be very, very busy. Héctor is an exciting come-forward, fan-friendly fighter. It’s good for Golden Boy when he is on the cards because fans enjoy his fights, and it’s good for us because he continues to move up closer to the top of the division, which is where Héctor belongs and wants to be”.

Image: Héctor ‘El Travieso’ Valdez: The Storm is Coming!

A good support system is crucial in any fighter’s career, and Valdez has just that. While watching his fight against Torres, I noticed a few important faces ringside. Representing Golden Boy Promotions, Robert Diaz (VP/Matchmaker) and Eric Gomez (President) were both fully invested in the fight. Often the first fight of the undercard doesn’t get much attention, but this wasn’t the case that evening. Seeing the support from the big names speaks for itself and emphasizes how confident they are in the future of this young fighter.

Other key members on Team Valdez include a collection of trainers- Robert Garcia, Hector Beltran, and Carlos Martinez. All three focus on different aspects of training their exciting prospect. Garcia is the motivation guy and also sees facets of the sport slightly different from the others. His experience training World Champions helps him come up with mid-fight strategy adjustments. Beltran, Valdez’s main trainer in Dallas, helps create the game plan and how to approach every fight. He’s the day-to-day trainer who makes sure his fighter is well-rounded. Martinez focuses on making sure Valdez stays consistent with his approach, including combinations. He stays on top of his fighters throughout training and in the actual fight. If a four-punch combination is the focus, he makes sure his fighter works that for the entire round. The three-headed beast of trainers will continue to mentor Valdez as he climbs the ranks. All three want the best for Valdez and will continue to work hard to ensure that he gets better every day.

Another extended member of Team Valdez is welterweight superstar Vergil Ortiz Jr. The two fighters from the Dallas area have been friends for years and are more than just teammates. The two shared a locker room for the last event and even participated in a Q&A leading up to the fight on March 20th. It was Vergil Ortiz Sr. who introduced Valdez to both Robert Garcia and Golden Boy Promotions.

On top of staying as active as possible in the ring in 2021, Valdez will look to stay active, building his brand outside of the ring. It’s no secret that promotion companies love to highlight boxers who already have a big following. This will be a big year for Team Valdez in regards to marketing and gaining popularity across the board. When asked how he would approach building Héctor’s brand, Fowler responded, “I think the biggest thing is to make him as visible as possible and continue to push content on social media and other platforms that are relevant to who he is. The one thing that everyone loves about Héctor is his look and how humble he is; this doesn’t even get into when people find out about him having racehorses, cars, living on a ranch, etc. … he is very appealing to the market and brands. He is with AQUAhydrate now and loves working with them, and we look to have him with other big brands and companies by the end of the year. People and companies love Héctor, especially once they meet him and want to be in the “Héctor Valdez” business with him.”

Héctor Valdez Jr. is a rising prospect that deserves attention from the fans and the media. Look for Golden Boy and Team Valdez to work together for the best year of this young man’s career. Work ethic, confidence, speed, and those heavy hands will take “El Travieso” far. He’s headed in the right direction, and if he continues to stay humble and listens to the team around him, he will reach his goals.

From our conversation, one statement stood out to me. In regards to the overall environment of the entire event at Dickies Arena, Valdez said, “At the end of the day, the fans are who won.” A mature comment from a young fighter who could have celebrated himself or good friend Ortiz Jr. Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy have themselves an intriguing and likable fighter who continues to impress. 2021 is the year for Héctor “El Travieso” Valdez Jr. to take that next step, and he’s more than ready. The storm is coming!

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