Oscar Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs) remained undefeated after soundly outpointing first-time challenger Jason Sanchez (14-1, 7 KOs) over 12 rounds Saturday evening at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada.
Valdez ran away with this one with all three judges scoring the bout 118-109 (twice) and 117-110, all in favor of the champion to retain his WBO featherweight title. It was the sixth title successful defense for the champion from Nogales, Mexico.
Despite being out of his depth, Sanchez fought on gamely with right hands and quick left hooks that often missed their target. The differences between their skill sets and experience was certainly noticeable as the sharper and more polished Valdez connected with left hooks and found a permanent home for his overhand right.
The biggest drama of the fight unfolded when Valdez dropped Sanchez with a perfect lead left hook in the 5th round that did not appear to seriously hurt the challenger but caught his attention.
Sanchez simply had no answer for Valdez, who has become increasingly more defensive-minded under the tutelage of trainer Eddy Reynoso. It’s a tactical departure from his usual more exciting but perhaps less effective brawler style.
Sanchez paid a steep price for his inexperience often leaving himself open for the left hook, Valdez’s money shot, which landed often and hard enough to open a cut under his right eye.
The pace slowed considerably in the championship rounds with both men battling fatigue, but Sanchez never threatened to turn the tide as Valdez continued to bag rounds and brought the crowd to life to its feet momentarily when he connected on multiple power shots in the 11th.
Valdez attempted to close the show in style in the 12th round after stunning Sanchez but the challenger proved resilient and survived to hear the final bell.
The victory was never in doubt but worth mentioning that it was the fourth time in his last five fights that Valdez was extended the 12-round distance.
CompuBox stats revealed that Valdez landed 195 of 509 total punches (38%), compared to 107 of 869 (12%) for Sanchez. Valdez also landed 43% (113 of 262) of his power punches, while Sanchez connected at 18% (91 of 500). Thus, Valdez was both more economical and accurate with his punches.
“Sanchez showed the heart of a champion, and he gave me a great fight for 12 rounds. He has a lot to be proud of”, Valdez said.
It’s well known that Valdez has had trouble making the 126-pound limit and that could factor into whether he continues as a featherweight.
“I hope [to fight at featherweight again]. I also have to listen to my body. We’re going to see what’s best. 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 we will do what is best. I want to fight everybody at 126, 130.”
“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.”