By Paul Mason
In news flying mostly under the radar last week due to the holiday season, strong rumours are circling that Bury’s Scott Quigg, the former WBA Super Bantamweight Champion, will challenge the WBO Featherweight Champion, and highly touted Oscar Valdez for his Title. All that remains is for terms to be agreed and contracts to be signed, but this is expected to be a formality, and the match is almost set for March 10 at the StubHub Centre in California.
This is a commendable move from Quigg, as he has been searching for a suitable World Title opportunity at his new weight, after a February 2016 split decision loss to rival Carl Frampton down at Super Bantamweight, relieving him of his crown in the process. He has picked up a ranking building WBA International Title, but options down this route are currently limited, with Leo Santa Cruz facing Abner Mares in a rematch for the full WBA Title. With Lee Selby mandated to fight Josh Warrington for the IBF strap, and Quigg not overly figuring in the WBC rankings, where Gary Russell Jr is king, this fight makes absolute sense.
Since the Frampton reverse, the rebuild for Quigg has been gradual. He has relocated to the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, and is now working alongside the famed trainer, Freddie Roach. Make no mistake, barring the Frampton fight, this will be Quigg’s toughest assignment to date. Maybe even tougher given the location and the man he is facing.
The bout will be Quigg’s fourth fight at Featherweight, debuting at the weight on the Anthony Joshua v Eric Molina bill in Manchester in December 2016. On that night he eased into the weight class by stopping Jose Cayetano in nine rounds. He followed this up with a clear points win over Viorel Simion, who had only lost once, to Lee Selby on the big Joshua v Klitshcko bill at Wembley Stadium. In his last fight in November, Quigg started slowly in Monte Carlo against Oleg Yefimovich, but eventually impressed, halting the Ukrainian in six.
The man he is reported to be facing, is fast building a reputation for himself in the pound for pound listings. Sonora, Mexico’s Oscar Valdez is fast rising in the sport, with his fan friendly, blood and guts style. 19 wins by knockout in 23 paid outings have underlined his credentials. He also holds impressive stoppage wins over former IBF Featherweight champion, Evgeny Gradovich, and two time World Title challenger, Chris Avalos. He captured the title he now holds in July 2016, the Title being vacant following the excellent Vasyl Lomachenko’s decision to move up in weight. A second round stoppage of the previously unbeaten Argentine, Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas won him the belt. He backed this up four months later with a seventh round stoppage win over Hiroshige Osawa on the Manny Pacquiao v Jessie Vargas bill at the Thomas & Mack Centre, also in Vegas. Since then he has made two further defences, but has been forced to go the distance both times. Manuel Marriaga was outpointed in April 2017, but Valdez had to overcome some rocky moments in the process. Another tough fight followed in his last contest, he beat the previously unbeaten, but unheralded Genesis Servania on the cards, but only after surviving a fourth round knockdown, the second of his career. Valdez struck back to knock Servania down in the very next round, and triumphed handily enough on the scorecards.
This is maybe what has attracted Quigg to take this assignment on, as Valdez seemingly loves to trade and go toe to toe. Quigg has a great engine, and can pull through tough times to hear the final bell, as he did when breaking his jaw early on in the Frampton contest, even rallying late to make the bout interesting and a lot closer down the stretch. Quigg also has two draws on his slate, a technical draw due to a cut against Rendall Munroe, and a majority draw against Yoandris Salinas for the WBA Super Bantamweight Title. He would go onto make five defences of the belt before dropping the Frampton decision.
This is a tough fight to call, as both have flaws. Ultimately though I feel Valdez has that bit more machismo for the Manchester man, and can see him overcoming some sticky patches to outpoint Quigg.
It’s certainly a fight to look forward to.
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