Oscar Valdez wasn’t nearly as dominant Friday night as he was in his previous bout, but he still out-worked Robson Conceicao in their super featherweight title fight.
The undefeated Valdez overcame a slow start, eliminated Conceicao’s early lead on the scorecards and won a unanimous decision in the main event of a seven-fight card at Casino Del Sol’s AVA Amphitheater in Tucson, Arizona, the Mexican-born Valdez’s adopted hometown. Judges Stephen Blea (117-110), Omar Mintun (115-112) and Chris Tellez (115-112) all favored Valdez’s workmanlike effort against Conceicao, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist from Brazil.
The previously unbeaten Conceicao (16-1, 8 KOs) took a significant step up in competition versus Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs), who upset favored former champ and countryman Miguel Berchelt by 10th-round knockout in a career-defining performance February 20 in Las Vegas. It was a step slightly too steep, as Valdez fought through the pre-fight controversy related to his failed performance-enhancing drug test last month and successfully defended his WBC 130-pound crown for the first time.
“[The win] makes it better,” Valdez told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel during his post-fight interview. “I’ve been through a hard week. … We won the fight. We did what we had to do. And we move on to the next chapter.”
Valdez chastised Conceicao for yelling at him, spitting at him and disrespecting him after the decision was announced. The former WBO featherweight champion also criticized Conceicao for refusing to engage with him.
“It makes it complicated when somebody’s trying to run the whole fight,” Valdez said. “I mean, I’m trying to put a good show to my fans. I’m trying to give the fans what they want, which is a good fight. But, you know, if he wants to run, you know, you can’t win a fight running like that.”
Conceicao faded during the second half of their bout, but he insisted to Kriegel that he should be a world champion.
“In my mind, I won the fight,” Conceicao said, according to his translator. “The whole world was witness of my win. I won this fight here. If he wanna fight me on his farm, with his animals watching the fight, I will beat him again. In my mind, I won the fight.”
CompuBox counted 58 more punches overall for Concecaio than Valdez (141-of-576 to 83-of-390). According to CompuBox, Conceicao connected on more power punches (103-of-297 to 64-of-209) and jabs (38-of-279 to 19-of-181).
CompuBox credited Valdez with landing more punches in only one of the 12 rounds, though they landed the same number of blows in four rounds.
A tired Conceicao initiated several clinches during the 12th round and didn’t throw many impactful punches during those three minutes. Valdez didn’t land many punches in the final round, either, but he was the aggressor.
Valdez pressed the action throughout the 11th round. He didn’t land many clean punches, but Conceicao didn’t throw a lot of punches during those three minutes.
A left hook by Conceicao knocked Valdez off balance barely 20 seconds into the 10th round. Valdez’s right hand affected Conceicao 45 seconds into the 10th round.
Valdez walked through Conceicao’s flush right hand with 40 seconds on the clock in the 10th round. A left hook by Valdez backed up Conceicao with about 15 seconds to go in the 10th round.
Referee Tony Zaino deducted a point from Conceicao for hitting Valdez behind his head with 1:44 to go in the ninth round. Conceicao landed back-to-back jabs with under 30 seconds on the clock in the ninth round, but he missed wildly with a right hand soon thereafter.
With just over 40 seconds to go in the eighth round, Valdez landed a left hook to Conceicao’s body. Valdez added another left to Conceicao’s body approximately 15 seconds later.
Valdez’s left hook to Conceicao’s chest was one of the defending champion’s most effective punches of the seventh round.
Valdez nailed Conceicao with a left hook with just over a minute to go in the sixth round. An overhand right by Valdez landed just before the sixth round concluded as well.
Valdez snapped back Conceicao’s head with a jab barely 20 seconds into the fifth round. Conceicao connected with a left hook a little more than a minute into the fifth round.
With just under 50 seconds on the clock in the fifth round, Conceicao cracked Valdez with a left hook, avoided Valdez’s right hand and promptly mocked Valdez’s miss.
Conceicao cracked Valdez with a right uppercut barely 1:15 into the fourth round.
Valdez’s right hand rocked Conceicao 25 seconds into the third round. Conceicao caught Valdez with a counter left approximately 2:05 into the third round.
Valdez drilled Conceicao with a left to the body when there was just over 1:05 to go in the second round. Conceicao connected with a right-left combination with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the second round.
Conceicao came back with a left hook to the body and a left hook up top about 10 seconds later.
Valdez landed a stiff jab with approximately 25 seconds to go in the first round. Conceicao spent most of that opening round trying to establish his own jab against the shorter Valdez.
Their 130-pound title fight proceeded Friday night despite that Valdez tested positive for Phentermine last month in a test administered by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Phentermine, a stimulant banned by VADA both in and out of competition, was detected in Valdez’s “A” and “B” samples provided August 13.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission approved Valdez’s license application because all state and tribal commissions in the United States that are affiliated with the Association of Boxing Commissions adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards.
WADA permits Phentermine “out of competition,” as long as it isn’t detected after 11:59 p.m. local time the day before an event.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.