Oscar Valdez learned firsthand a year ago just how difficult it is to deal with Shakur Stevenson’s skills in the ring.
The unbeaten Stevenson dominated Valdez during their 12-round, 130-pound title unification fight last April 30 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Stevenson sent Valdez to the canvas in the sixth round and won by wide distances on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham (117-110), Dave Moretti (118-109) and David Sutherland (118-109).
A dejected Valdez walked away from the ring that night certain that Stevenson is one of boxing’s elite talents, undoubtedly a top 10 fighter, pound-for-pound. Based on what Valdez experienced versus Stevenson, the former featherweight and junior lightweight champion expects even the most formidable fighters in the lightweight division, namely Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis, to have difficulty figuring out how to beat Stevenson if they face him.
“I can only talk from my experience,” Valdez told BoxingScene.com. “You know, I’ve never faced Gervonta Davis. I’ve never faced Devin Haney. But I faced Shakur and Shakur is legit. Shakur, there’s something special about him. I worked very, very hard for that fight and I maybe landed five clean shots, not even clean, you know, because Shakur has a defense where he’s rocking a little bit back and even if you land your shot, it’s still not solid.
“So, you know, you’ve got someone like Gervonta Davis, who’s a knockout artist, and Devin Haney, who’s also a very, very technical fighter and has a longer reach. But for you to knock out somebody, first you’ve gotta hit him. And I don’t see a lot of these fighters touching Shakur because he just has a great defense. I see something special in him. I do believe he’ll do very well at 135 and possibly at 140. I see him being a multi-divisional champion.”
Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) will fight May 20 for the first time since his loss to Stevenson.
The Nogales, Mexico native is scheduled to meet Adam Lopez (16-4, 6 KOs, 1 NC), of Glendale, California, in the 10-round co-feature before Haney defends his IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO lightweight titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The rematch between Valdez and Lopez will immediately precede an ESPN Pay-Per-View main event in which Haney (29-0, 15 KOs), of Henderson, Nevada, will square off with Ukraine’s Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs).
The 32-year-old Valdez got up from a second-round knockdown to drop and stop Lopez in the seventh round of their November 2019 bout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Lopez was an 11th-hour replacement for Mexico’s Andres Gutierrez, who came in an absurd 11 pounds overweight for his fight versus Valdez.
Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs), a two-division champion from Newark, New Jersey, became the WBC’s mandatory challenger for the Haney-Lomachenko winner April 8. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist dropped previously unbeaten Japanese contender Shuichiro Yoshino (16-1, 12 KOs) twice on his way to a sixth-round technical knockout in a main event ESPN broadcast from Prudential Center in Newark.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.