Oscar Valdez 25 (20 KOs)-0-0 defends his WBO Featherweight title against untested but unbeaten Jason Sanchez 14 (7 KOs)-0-0 this Saturday at the Reno Sparks Convention Centre, Reno broadcasted in the US on ESPN.
Following Vasyl Lomachenko’s departure from the Featherweight division what once one of the most exciting weight classes in boxing seems to have lost a bit of its lustre with divisions like Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight stepping in to fill the void, and this fight between Oscar Valdez and Jason Sanchez is a good epitome of that. In truth I didn’t know the fight was taking place until I was told this week, and it’s not as if Valdez is exactly a boring fighter to watch. His fight with Quigg was a fight of the year candidate, but like many American fighters being an undefeated world champion is one thing, being popular is quite another. Being British, an obvious comparison would be Josh Warrington who like Valdez is an undefeated world champion at Featherweight, and the support that Warrington gets in his home city of Leeds is unquestionably greater than Valdez in the Mexican areas of the States but in truth that can’t be put down to Valdez or even the Featherweight division, that is more boxing’s lack of popularity in the States as a whole.
Hopefully then he’ll be able to put on a bit of a show because although I hadn’t even heard of Jason Sanchez before this fight, he does look capable and Valdez will probably have a tougher time than people could expect. In terms of Valdez we know what we get: lots of activity, ability to box on the back foot if needed but primarily a fighter who wears his heart on his sleeve and fights fire with fire. Sanchez looks to have similar attributes to Valdez, what I would say though is that he stands in a fairly wide stance, and also he loves throwing body shots often tripling up on them. These aren’t Mayweather style body shots either, just diversions to open up the head, Sanchez really does rip to the body and if he can back Valdez up this is what I expect him to go to first. What will likely decide the fight down the line is Valdez’s more rounded skillset. Though he isn’t known as a boxer he did show skills in the Quigg fight in defending up close on the inside, and although I was impressed with Sanchez, in that wide stance and with vertical forearms it can make him a little bit stiff meaning that if he gets pushed back shots tend to be open.
When the first bell goes I think you’ll see Sanchez look to press the action because from watching the two fighters that I would have thought is Sanchez’s best shot, and Valdez looking comfortable retreating and countering with combinations. However, if this does pan out I don’t think this is going to be a jab for jab type of battle, expect heavy leather to be thrown especially to the body. Come round four Sanchez should have slowed enough to give Valdez a few more options pushing Sanchez back. I do see a speed difference between the two of them and this will only become more evident as the fight pushes on. A 7th round knockout for Valdez may seem harsh for Sanchez but I do expect him giving a fairly good account of himself here, but just his stiffness and slight lack of speed in the pocket being his downfall. On paper it looks a bit of a mismatch, but I think there will be fun to be had here.