For the third time in his WBO featherweight world title reign, Oscar Valdez turned away the challenge of a previously undefeated fighter. Valdez, a two-time Olympian for his native Mexico, defeated Albuquerque product Jason Sanchez via unanimous decision to defend his world title for the sixth time.

The scores — 118-109 2x and 117-110 — were reflective of the action, but Sanchez, appearing in his first world title contest, made the longtime champion work for the victory.

Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs) knocked down Sanchez with a lead left hook to open the fifth round and played the role of boxer-puncher throughout the evening.

Sanchez (14-1, 7 KOs) was game, but he did not have an answer for Valdez, who has become a less of a brawler and more of a defensive-minded, catch-and-shoot tactician under the guidance of trainer Eddy Reynoso.

“I hope {to fight at featherweight again}. I also have to listen to my body. We’re going to see what’s best,” Valdez said. “Sometimes I get tired in there, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the weight loss. We’ll talk about {my next move} as a team and will do what is best. I want to fight everybody at 126, 130. Let’s do it.”

“Sanchez lacked experience, but he showed tremendous guts. Oscar Valdez fought him back and showed his championship heart,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “We’re going to look for a fight later on in the year between Valdez and Carl Frampton if Frampton is successful in his next fight.”

Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Oscar Valdez is set to make the sixth defense of his WBO world featherweight title, and for the third time during his title reign, he will be facing an unbeaten challenger.

Valdez (25-0, 20 KOs), the pride of Nogales, Mexico, will defend his belt against upstart Jason Sanchez (14-0, 7 KOs) Saturday evening from the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. Sanchez is an Albuquerque product who has upset the odds before.

Valdez-Sanchez will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Valdez is now two fights removed from the severely broken jaw he suffered in March of last year against an over-the-weight Scott Quigg. Sanchez burst onto the boxing scene last October, upsetting then-unbeaten Jean Carlos Rivera via 10-round decision in Panama City, Panama. But Sanchez, who received this title shot on a little more than a month’s notice, is ready to tackle the long odds yet again. Valdez bounced back from the broken jaw Feb. 2 in Frisco, Texas, knocking out Carmine Tommasone in seven rounds.

Two days before the bright lights, Valdez, Sanchez, and Flores met the media at the final press conference. This is what they had to say.

Oscar Valdez

On his second camp with trainer Eddy Reynoso

“We’ve worked very hard in the gym. He’s put the time in. That’s one of the first things I thought could happen knowing he trains Canelo Alvarez, that I might not get the time I deserve in the gym to keep on improving. But on the contrary. We’ve been working very hard. Eddy has been 100 percent dedicated to me, and I can just say thank you to him for putting that time in, him and my father, my manager Frank Espinoza, my whole team.”

“I know Jason Sanchez. I know he’s a tough fighter, and I treat him with as much respect as any fighter out there. A lot of people might not know who he is. Unfortunately, in the boxing world, if you don’t know the opponent, they automatically think it’s an easy fight like he’s a bum, a walk in the park, a sack of potatoes, whatever anybody wants to call it. But I don’t see that. I see a young, hungry fighter with the same dream as any other fighter wants to have, which is become a world champion. I have that target on my back. I take no fighter lightly. I see Jason Sanchez as a strong opponent, and I’m going to do my best to win.”

“I don’t plan on leaving this belt anytime soon. I want to move and improve to bigger and better things. Right now, I got only one guy on my radar, which is Jason Sanchez. I got much respect for him and his team, but once the bell rings, all of that is over. We have to give a good fight for the crowd, for the fans all over the world that are watching. That’s what we plan to do, so I’m very excited for this fight, to be honest.”

“I expect the best from every fighter. I saw him when he fought Jean Carlos Rivera, the Puerto Rican. He put up a good fight. Congratulations to him for his career. He’s doing great. This is a dream every fighter has, fighting for a world title. That only makes me more disciplined in the gym. I work very hard in the gym because I worked hard to get here, and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon. I’m taking this belt back to Mexico.”

Jason Sanchez

“There’s been so much going on {since the Rivera fight}, but it’s awesome. I’ve been working hard. I’m ready.”

“We knew beating Jean Carlos Rivera would mean we’d get more opportunities for more stuff. And, yes, sure enough.”

On getting the call to fight Valdez

“I was excited. We took the fight right away. He’s a tough guy. I’ve seen him fight before, but we’re ready.”

“I just need to fight hard and stay smart and active. Bringing the title home to Albuquerque would mean so much.”

Every now and again, we on the outside looking in get reminded that those guys and gals in there are not like us. I mean, what were you thinking when you saw Oscar Valdez fight Scott Quigg and then learn he was fighting the dude with a jaw that was broken from round five onward?

And – oh wait – Valdez actually got better in the second half of the bout!

Yeah, the best of them aren’t built in regulation fashion. Their pain tolerance is of a higher caliber; their will on another tier…They are sturdy of body and mind and this is why we marvel at their exploits.

Speaking of exploits…Valdez makes the sixth defense of his WBO featherweight crown on Saturday, June 8, against Jason Sanchez at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, in Las Vegas.

The 28-year-old Valdez, from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, holds a 25-0 record (with 20 knockouts) and last gloved up on February 2, notching a seventh round KO win over Carmine Tommasone (19-1, 5 KOs) in Texas. That card, headlined by WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev’s rematch win over Eleider Alvarez, saw Sanchez (14-0, 7 KOs) from New Mexico, score a second round stoppage victory over Daniel Olea (13-8-2, 5 KOs).

I chatted with Valdez on Monday and the mood was still impacted from what we fight fans witnessed on Saturday. Andy Ruiz, a buddy of Valdez’s, scored a massive upset for the ages when he stopped Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and on DAZN. Valdez effused about the new IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titleholder Ruiz but, beforehand, he touched on his most recent bout. And we got to that place after I brought up being out of the ring for 329 days and how that affects a boxer. “I was a little too calm,” Valdez told me of the Tommasone clash.

“It was a long break after that (jaw) injury. There was ring rust. I was 100 percent physically but mentally something was off. I was too calm.” Not so this time, he predicts. “I will be myself. I’ve worked so hard with (trainer) Eddy Reynoso, working on his methods. And I will be myself and let it flow!”

So, Sanchez – “El Alacrancito/Lil Scorpion” – …Does Valdez come in thinking this somewhat untested product has a big stinger? Or does he think the challenger has bitten off more than he can chew and will see that quickly? “My foes are not all known in boxing circles by casual fans and if some don’t know them, they think they are easy. But they are dangerous. It’s every boxer’s dream (to fight for a world crown) and so they will work harder. I can’t let it happen,” he told “I take this fight very seriously.”

The two-time Olympian gets it, that maybe a win here won’t get him massive acclaim because Sanchez isn’t on all the radar screens. “The casual fans might think it will be easy but it’s not going to be easy. My prediction? I never promise a knockout but I will do my best and leave everything I have in the ring. I take no fight lightly.”

Sanchez could maybe expect a high work rate from Valdez. In the Quigg fight, Valdez went from throwing 70 punches in rounds one through four, to averaging 79 after his jaw was broken. And Valdez should note that a counter right from the Scorpion was what damaged Olea. Sanchez will want to feature head movement or risk getting battered by Valdez. (Valdez-Sanchez and the 10-round co-feature will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+, the leading multi-sport streaming service, beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.)

It feels like Valdez is confident but not cocky. His mind is on Sanchez but, of course, he gets asked about those on-more-radar guys, the Leo Santa Cruzes and Carl Framptons and Josh Warringtons. However he craves those match-ups. Sanchez is the front and center though. “Leo might be just as tough as a Sanchez but Leo has that bigger name,” Valdez continues. “About Sanchez, I don’t disrespect any fighter.”

I’m guessing Valdez brings a bit of extra juice with him to Reno, stemming from that Ruiz win. “I got goosebumps,” the Top Rank scrapper stated. “I was so proud of him and his team.” They’d worked together on the Mexican national team, so Valdez had a good idea of Ruiz’s promise and knew he would threaten “AJ.” “I contacted Andy and got a quick message to him and I was happy he could answer back, being so (deluged)! Yeah, he’s a Mexican and I love it. I’m so happy for his team and him. And this belt – my belt – is going back to Mexico with me!”

My three cents: I tend to agree. Sanchez is taking two steps up in class and will need to channel Andy Ruiz and then some if he’s to produce an upset special on ESPN. More likely that Valdez serves him a painful notice of what he has to work on.


Follow Michael Woods on Twitter @Woodsy1069.

WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez is expecting a tough defense of his world title belt against the undefeated Jason “Alacrancito” Sanchez (14-0, 7 KOs) on June 8 at the Reno Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum sees Sanchez as a great prospect and even called him “the Cinderella Man” due to his upset victory last October 2018 against the undefeated top prospect Jean Carlos Rivera. “He is hungry and that’s dangerous for Oscar,” said Arum. “Sanchez is capable of pulling the upset, it will be an exciting war!”

Under the tutelage of trainer Eddy Reynoso, Óscar Valdez has modified his style. “We keep working hard with Eddy Reynoso, our defense has improved and in sparring it shows. Our style always will be aggressive but we’re working in our defense,” said Valdez.

Oscar will be making the sixth defense of the WBO featherweight title and he is undefeated with at 25-0 with 20 KOs. He is looking forward to facing the elite of the 126lb division and it looks like Carl Frampton could be next, but Valdez is not looking past Sanchez.

“I’m taking this fight with Sanchez very seriously, and not looking past him and I let my manager Frank Espinoza and my Promoter Bob Arum along with my team decide what’s next, but I want the big names in my division” concluded Valdez.

By Hesiquio Balderas /

Photo: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

RENO, Nev. (May 9, 2019) — Boxing’s preeminent action superhero, Oscar Valdez, will make the sixth defense of his WBO featherweight world title Saturday, June 8 against the upset-minded Jason “El Alacrancito” Sanchez at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Valdez-Sanchez and the 10-round light heavyweight showdown between title-hungry contenders Sullivan Barrera and Michael Seals will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+, the leading multi-sport streaming service, beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. Gabriel Flores Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs), fresh off his third-round knockout over Eduardo Pereira Reis in front of more than 10,000 fans in his hometown of Stockton, California, will see action on the undercard.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Let’s Get It On Promotions and Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, tickets for this world championship event priced at $103, $68 and $43 (including facility fees) are on sale now and can be purchased via or in person at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa gift shop.

“Jason Sanchez is the real ‘Cinderella Man,’” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “He is young, hungry and capable of pulling off a major upset. It should be an exciting battle.”

“I’m excited to be back in the ring for the sixth defense of my world title. I know there is a big target on my back because I’m the champion, but nobody is going to take this title away from me,” Valdez said. “This will be my second fight training with Eddy Reynoso. Training with Eddy, I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I felt great in the ring during my first fight with Eddy in my corner. I know that I will look even better this time out. The fans in Reno and watching on ESPN and ESPN Deportes can expect a great showing from me on June 8.”

“I am truly honored and blessed to have an opportunity like this,” Sanchez said. “Coming from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I knew I had to work extra hard to be noticed and to get where I’m at right now. I will be bringing this belt home to Albuquerque, to my family, my supporters, and most of all, my late brother Alan Sanchez. I believe he guided me down this road and that my journey is only beginning.”

Valdez (25-0, 20 KOs), Mexico’s first two-time Olympian, has thrilled boxing fans with his go-for-broke style. He won the WBO featherweight title in July 2016 and proved his mettle with a trio of 12-round bloodbaths against Miguel Marriaga, Genesis Servania and Scott Quigg in consecutive bouts. Valdez outlasted an over-the-weight Quigg last March by unanimous decision despite fighting more than half the bout with a severely broken jaw. Following the Quigg bout, Valdez took nearly a year off, returning Feb. 2 in Frisco, Texas, to knock out then-unbeaten Italian challenger Carmine Tommasone in the seventh round.

The 24-year-old Sanchez (14-0, 7 KOs) enters this championship fight as one of the featherweight division’s fastest-rising young guns. Last October, he stunned then-unbeaten Jean Carlos Rivera via unanimous decision in Panama City, Panama. Following the Rivera victory, Sanchez signed a long-term promotional contract with Top Rank. He impressed in his Top Rank debut Feb. 2 in Frisco, Texas, knocking out Daniel Olea in the second round. Sanchez hopes to become only the fifth men’s boxer from New Mexico to win a world title.

Barrera (22-2, 14 KOs), a former Cuban amateur standout, defected to the United States in 2009 and turned pro later that year. The Miami-based bruiser won the first 17 bouts of his career before dropping a decision to pound-for-pound great Andre Ward. A perennial contender, Barrera holds victories over Joe Smith Jr., Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Karo Murat and former super middleweight world champion Jeff Lacy. He challenged Dmitry Bivol for a light heavyweight world title last year and fought valiantly before being stopped in the 12th and final round.

Seals (22-2, 16 KOs), a former linebacker for Alabama A&M University, traded in his cleats for trunks and turned pro after a five-fight amateur career. He was 19-0 when he clashed with Edwin Rodriguez in November 2015. In a seesaw battle that included five knockdowns, Rodriguez knocked out Seals in the third round of a Fight of the Year contender. Seals is 3-1 since the Rodriguez battle, the lone loss coming via disqualification after he hit his opponent while he was on the ground. The winner of this can’t-miss action fight will be in line for a potential world title opportunity.

“I am very excited to have signed with Top Rank, a world-class organization with the best light heavyweights in the world,” Barrera said. “I am excited about the future, but the first step is to handle business June 8 and then I can look forward to a shot at a world title. My ultimate goal is Sergey Kovalev. I’ve been chasing him my whole career. Hopefully, we can finally fight this year.”

“This means everything to me. I had a great opportunity with Edwin Rodriguez, but I went into that fight with a torn rotator cuff. I was basically fighting with just my right hand,” Seals said. “Now, I am 100 percent healthy. This is my time. Barrera had his time. I feel good. I feel sharp. I feel young. I have sacrificed so much and have had a lot of time to reflect on the decisions I’ve made and all of the hardships I’ve gone through. On June 8, I’m going to unleash all of my frustration on Barrera. I don’t want to take anything away from Barrera. He’s a world-class fighter, but I am as well.”