New York native Pablo “Pretty Boy” Valdez has long wished of performing in one of boxing’s most historic venues, Madison Square Garden, and he will fulfill that dream this Saturday when he steps in to the ring to face Julio Cesar Sanchez in a six-round contest.

An admitted brawler in the ring, Valdez enters this weekend’s fight fresh off a crowd-pleasing victory in his October 30 bout at the Hulu Theater. He plans to put on another entertaining performance on the highly anticipated card headlined by Vasiliy Lomachenko and Richard Commey on December 11.

The 38-year-old Valdez has traversed a windy road to reach this destination, but he refused to give up on his goals, even during the darkest of days. He’s watched from near and far as many of the boxers he’s trained with accomplished their dreams, and now he will have the chance to do the same with many of them watching from ringside. 

Valdez took up boxing after competing in karate as a teenager, and he immediately fell in love with the sweet science. He was fully immersed in the talent-laden New York boxing world and believed he would go on to become a world champion. Yet life had other plans. He was arrested and would spend several years in jail, derailing his plans in the ring.

His time behind bars didn’t dampen his love for boxing, but rather gave him much needed motivation and encouragement through the tales of his fellow fighters’ success. From learning of Marcus Browne’s Olympic berth to Sadam Ali’s success, and the Serrano sisters’ rise, each of his boxing brothers and sisters’ victories brought him joy and hope for the future.

He and super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga entered the gym at the same time as youngsters, and despite their age difference, they enjoy a strong bond to this day. Valdez has enjoyed watching the journey Berlanga has been on, and Berlanga will be ringside to take in Valdez’s bout on Saturday.

Once he got the opportunity to return to boxing, Valdez began his pro career in 2018 at the age of 35. It hasn’t been a smooth journey since coming back to the sport with several starts and stops as well as the Covid-19 pandemic which has impacted so many fighters’ activity. He was scheduled to compete on the March 14, 2020 card that was cancelled just 48 hours before the event due to the pandemic, and he’d sold approximately $50,000 in tickets to the show.

Valdez returned to the ring in February of this year after a 15-month absence, and Saturday’s bout will be his third fight of 2021. He hopes to gain some momentum with a strong showing this weekend and head in to the new year strong.

One of the many lessons that Valdez learned during his time behind bars is that it’s never too late to chase your dreams, and it is important to him to showcase that in his own life. He’s getting the opportunity to prove that this Saturday with many of those who’ve supported him cheering him on.

Valdez’s bout with Sanchez will be a part of a stacked undercard beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT and will be the undercard bouts will be available on ESPN+.