A Nogales-born, Tucson-bred professional boxing champ is returning home not only to defend his new WBC title but to avenge a loss against a long-time rival.
WBC super featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (29-0-0) will make his first title defense against Brazilian boxer Robson Conceicao (16-0-0) at Casino Del Sol on Friday, Sept. 10. Valdez won the coveted WBC strap earlier this year against Miguel Berchelt by knocking out the previous champ with a devastating left hook in Round 10.
“I’m very happy to come back to my second home. I love fighting in Tucson in front of my people. It’s only an hour away from Nogales and every time I fight there it’s an awesome feeling,” Valdez said during a Zoom media call to promote his upcoming title bout. “I’m really excited to come back now as a WBC world champion and what better way to give my crowd, my people what they want, which is a good fight.”
This will be the second time both boxers meet in the squared circle since Valdez lost to the Brazilian pugilist by one point during the 2009 Pan American Games, back when they were amateurs. Conceicao later went on to win the gold in boxing at the 2016 Olympics—the first Brazilian to do so—while Valdez turned pro in 2011 and has since amassed an undefeated professional record fighting as a featherweight and super featherweight. The Nogales native won the WBO featherweight title in 2019 but later vacated the belt when he moved up to the super featherweight division the following year.
“This is my opportunity to get revenge for my loss in the amateurs. We know that he [Conceicao] is an Olympic gold medalist, he has a very good amateur background and he’s a tough fighter,” Valdez said. “Nobody wins a gold medal in the Olympics being an easy fighter. He’s undefeated and wants to accomplish his dream, so obviously he is training hard for this. ”
The WBC champ said he’s preparing for this fight differently than he did for Berchelt due to Conceicao’s reach advantage and technical style. Now that he’s working with Eddy Reynoso—super middleweight champ Canelo Alverez’s trainer—Valdez said he believes his team has crafted the perfect game plan to defeat Conceicao.
“He [Conceicao] knows how to use his distance well and that can be a problem to fight. But, that’s the reason why we train so hard...to manage, learn and do what’s best to win the fight,” Valdez said. “He [Reynoso] tells me what to do in the gym and we do repetitions over and over. I’ve been studying Robson Conceicao and doing the perfect technique to beat him on Sept. 10.”
While the super featherweight division is stacked with talented boxers like Jamel Herring and Shakur Stevenson—both of which could lead to huge paydays—Valdez said he never looks ahead to the next fight while training for an upcoming bout. The champ said it’s an unwritten rule of boxing to never focus on a fight you’re not currently training for. Those who break the rule do so at their own peril. Valdez uses his last fight against Berchelt as an example.
“He [Berchelt] said ‘Once I beat Oscar Valdez, I’m gonna beat Lomachenko and Gervonta Davis...I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that,’ not knowing I was training three times a day,” Valdez said. “That’s a big mistake and a lot of boxers do it. You look past the fighter not knowing that fighter could possibly beat you.”
Valdez moved to Tucson when he was 1 year old and spent his formative years studying at Manzo Elementary before returning to Nogales, Sonora after completing fifth grade, he said. The champ started training in the sweet science as a youth at Aztlan Boxing Gym on South 10th Avenue, where he said he learned from local boxing greats like Noberto ‘Nito’ Bravo. Valdez also looked up to other Nogales fighters like David “The Destroyer” Lopez who regularly fought at Desert Diamond Casino and Casino Del Sol in the 2000s. Lopez’s career was cut short in 2009 after being shot and killed in Nogales, Sonora while driving with his son.
“Tucson has a great boxing background. I remember as a little kid back in Nogales we used to drive up to Tucson to see a good friend of ours, let his soul rest in peace...Destroyer Lopez,” Valdez said. “I used to always say ‘Wow, one day I’m going to be like Destroyer Lopez, fighting right there at Casino Del Sol, Desert Diamond and everywhere’. When I was a kid I looked up to someone like him and now is my chance to come back to Tucson and I’m the main event. I’m literally living the dream.”
On the undercard is Tucson’s own Jose “El Fosforito” Ramirez (1-0-0), who will be fighting his second professional match at Casino Del Sol. The 18-year-old Desert View High School senior said being a part of the Valdez vs. Conceicao card is a dream come true, especially since he started boxing around 6 or 7 years old, he said.
“I think it’s amazing and it’s crazy. Just being around fighters that are world champions is like a feeling I can’t describe, honestly,” Ramirez said. “I really couldn’t ask for a better start for my career and I’m happy it’s going the way it is. All I have to do now is keep putting in work.”
While his opponent has not been named as of press time, the young boxer said he has no worries about who he may face on Sept.10. All the hard work put in at Red Nation Warriors boxing gym and Tucson Southwest Boxing Academy has prepared Ramirez for whoever comes his way, he said.
“We’re training and working hard every day. The work doesn’t stop,” Ramirez said. “I’m actually pretty confident going into this fight. I’m not stressing about anything because the last thing I want on my mind right now is stress.”
Editor's note: This story went to press before Oscar Valdez tested positive for the banned substance phentermine. A decision about whether the fight is still on is pending as of Thursday, Sept. 2.