LAS VEGAS – Oscar Valdez couldn’t believe the things he heard the night of February 3.

Fans booed Valdez as he sat ringside to watch the Emanuel Navarrete-Liam Wilson fight for the then-vacant WBO junior lightweight title. Some disgruntled customers even approached Valdez at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, to tell him they thought he was scared to fight Navarrete.

Mexico’s Valdez, who once fought for seven-plus rounds with a fractured jaw and beat Scott Quigg, was offended.

The former WBO featherweight and ex-WBC super featherweight champion wanted nothing more than to face Navarrete that night. Valdez aggravated a rib injury early in training camp that had already delayed his return to the ring and was replaced by Australia’s Wilson, who nearly pulled off what would’ve been a huge upset versus Navarrete.

Valdez, 32, will fight for the first time Saturday night since Shakur Stevenson out-classed him in their 12-round, 130-pound title unification fight in April 2022 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. If Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) defeats Adam Lopez in their 10-round rematch on the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undercard at MGM Grand Garden Arena, Valdez expects to challenge Navarrete next for the WBO 130-pound championship.

The criticism Valdez endured three months ago has motivated the fan-friendly fighter even more to beat both Lopez and Navarrete.

“It’s hurtful and it’s tough because I was inspired by fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales,” Valdez told “These guys are warriors. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve dreamed of being somewhat similar to them. And I’ve always given my best effort to give fans what they want, which is good fights. I can box, I can move, I can stick the jab and move around and do whatever it takes to win. But I choose to stay in there. I choose to give the fans what they want.

“And the first time I was hearing them was Shakur Stevenson. They were saying I was scared of him. That was never the case. I’ve never been scared of fighting any other fighter out there. To hear people say that, that I’m scared of fighting Navarrete, that was absurd to me because I was born to fight.”

Valdez intended to return from his lopsided loss to Stevenson last November 12. He hadn’t secured an opponent when he slipped on wet stairs in his home in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, late in August and fractured two ribs on his right side.

Once his injury healed, or so Valdez thought, he went straight toward a difficult fight against Navarrete. A body shot during a sparring session December 1 re-fractured one of Valdez’s ribs and caused him to withdraw from that title bout.

“There was a lot of bullsh*t going through my mind at that time because I kept on saying that should’ve been me [fighting Navarrete],” Valdez said. “And, you know, I think the boxing fans are one of the hardest to convince and to get their approval. And when I was in Arizona, at that fight, I got a lotta boos. People were pretty upset. There were comments here and there that they bought tickets to see me. Then they kept on saying that you ducked Navarrete, you’re scared of Navarrete, you faked the injury. Then I did an interview with ESPN and I made a clear mistake by saying I broke my back.

“And people were laughing at me, saying I made up a story like the time Mike Tyson said he broke his back. It was tough because I wanted to fight, obviously, and having the critics, having people come up to me and say I’m scared of some other fighter, well, that’s not the case. I have never been afraid to fight any fighter out there because boxing’s my life. This is what I was born to do, and I love to be in the ring and to fight.”

As more time passed after his loss to Stevenson, Valdez and his team decided to take a bout before challenging Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs). Lopez, of Glendale, California, has sought a rematch since he surprisingly dropped Valdez during the second round of a bout Valdez eventually won by seventh-round technical knockout in November 2019 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Lopez (16-4, 6 KOs, 1 NC), who took their first fight on barely 24 hours’ notice, contends that it was stopped prematurely.

Their rematch will be the co-feature before Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) defends his IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO lightweight titles against Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs) in their ESPN Pay-Per-View main event. The three-bout broadcast is set to begin at 10 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. PDT) and costs $59.99 if purchased through ESPN+ or numerous cable and satellite companies.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.