Saturday night on the undercard for the clash between undefeated WBO super lightweight champion Terence Crawford and undefeated WBC champion Viktor Postal, two more unbeaten fighters will face off in a title fight, as Oscar Valdez and Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda meet for the vacant WBO featherweight title.
The WBO featherweight belt was made vacant in June, when Vasyl Lomachenko moved up to capture the WBO 130-pound belt by knocking out Roman Martinez. Valdez is a worthy title challenger, on a fast track to top status in the division. In September 2015, he stopped tough, fringe contender Chris Avalos. Last April, on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard, he handled former title-holder Evgeny Gradovich in four rounds.
There’s no question that at 25, Valdez is one of the most exciting rising talents out there at 126 pounds. He’s knocked out 17 of 19 opponents, an impressive KO percentage for a fighter at that weight class. I can’t fault Bob Arum and Top Rank if they look at Valdez and imagine that they might have found the next big Mexican star.
Rueda comes into this bout with an impressive record, 26-0 with 23 KOs, but it doesn’t really stand up under scrutiny. The Argentine fighter has fought just once outside of his native country, knocking out .500 journeyman Manuel Herrera last year in Florida. Walter Estrada, a 40-year-old journeyman, is the only name on his resume that I even recognize.
So it’s tough for me to think much of this as a title fight. Valdez is a rising contender and in an alphabet-soup world, he’s a qualified title challenger. Rueda is an untested and padded record. I’m sure he will fight like a lion, but he looks to me like nothing so much as a lamb fattened for the slaughter. On paper, he has a record that can be passed off as worthy of an alphabet-soup title. He’s no doubt a tough fighter and hopefully makes this an entertaining bout. But I can’t imagine Top Rank would have matched him here with Valdez if he was a true threat.
Valdez’s big threats will come down the road. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t factor in some major bouts in the next few years.