While the featherweight division isn’t grabbing the same headlines as the heavyweights lately, it can’t be argued that it’s not following the same trajectory. A stacked division is finally starting to gel nicely as the top fighters seem to be willing to get in the ring with one another to find the top dog. Boxers such as Gary Russell Jnr, Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton and Abner Mares are the big paydays but make no mistake any fight with two top ten fighters will be high class. Fights such as Frampton vs Donaire and Selby vs Warrington will hopefully lead to an unofficial tournament at 126 pounds and remove the need for the World Boxing Super Series to come to the division, though if it did I doubt many people would complain.
To finish the trifecta of top featherweight clashes is dangerous Mexican Oscar Valdez 23 (19 KOs)-0-0 against now Freddie Roach trained Scott Quigg 34 (25 KOs)-1 (0 KO)-2. Quigg’s career seems to have stalled of late following the Carl Frampton loss in early 2016 and while he’s had three fights and three wins since then there’s a sense that that Frampton loss is still hanging over him. The move from Manchester based Joe Gallagher out to Freddie Roach in Los Angeles was hoped to take him to the next level but his two fights training under Roach have been a little lacklustre and hardly hit the heights of knocking out Kiko Martinez in two rounds down at Super Bantamweight. Hopefully for Quigg this is down to lacking a bit of experience with Roach and trying a little too hard to get the knockout, and not that he’s just found his level because if that’s the case he could be in for trouble come Saturday.
Let’s be clear, Quigg was never the prettiest boxer to watch, like former stable mate Anthony Crolla there’s not too many special effects to Quigg’s game, textbook high guard and trying to get inside where he can land hurtful body shots setting it up to the head. His best asset is his work rate which can be put down to a relentless training regimen that allows him to be one of the physically strongest and fittest in the division. But while in the past Quigg has been reasonably educated in his attack a recent trend of a lack of head movement coming in, and apparent disregard for shots coming back could come back to haunt him.
This is an issue for Quigg because it only takes one to glance at Oscar Valdez’s record to know that he carries power, with 19 knockouts in 23 fights Valdez while looking like a typical puncher on paper is a rather unusual fighter. Coming from that typical Mexican boxing school Valdez is extremely comfortable up close and mid- range throwing combinations and often finishing on a powerful left hook but he can be susceptible for not throwing his right hand straight and looping it so that can be easily rolled and countered, and though Valdez is being slowly brought up to be a star in America with his WBO title it’s not like the rise of Terrance Crawfod or Demitrius Andrade where he hasn’t really been troubled on the way up. Fights with Miguel Marriaga and Genesis Servania show that while Valdez can certainly bang he can be hit and hurt in fights, often committing the cardinal sin of pulling out with his hands down and electing to slip shots by inches. If Quigg is going to prevail on Saturday he’s going to have to make use of all the defensive lapses that Valdez gives him.
When the bell sounds it will most likely start as Valdez jabs and moves and Quigg looking to close the range and get on the inside. Though Valdez has a good jab and boxing brain, when he uses it, the fight will most likely descend into a bit of a brawl by the mid rounds and become a fight of attrition. The fight will really depend on how much punishment Quigg takes trying to get in range, if he comes in smartly and aware of the shots coming back it could easily become Quigg’s fight, but since Quigg hasn’t shown this level of skill for years at the top level or in this division at all, it is tough to pick the Bury man.
However that’s exactly what I’m going to do, while Quigg is going to get no favours on the cards I believe that Quigg has the ability in the locker to win this fight, and that if he is switched on in the early rounds he should be able to back Valdez up and pick up the later rounds to become a two weight world champion.
If Quigg does somehow upset the odds, it would certainly make a rematch with bitter rival Carl Frampton much more possible in the future, getting him one step closer to redemption, but coming in on Saturday he can’t freeze like he did against Frampton because if he does he it’s another long road back to the top.
Also on the card two unbeaten Americans collide as Andy Vences 20 (12 KOs)-0-0 faces Erick De Leon 17 (10 KOs)-0-0 down at Super Featherweight.