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Valdez: Every Fighter Loses, It’s How You Come Back

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When Oscar Valdez takes on Liam Wilson on March 29 at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, it will be a return to the scene of emotionally crushing defeats to Emanuel Navarrete for both.

Massive underdog Wilson had Navarrete down and nearly out when they fought last February, only to get TKO’d in the ninth. Slight favorite Valdez went to war with Navarrete for 12 rounds only to exit with a hammered-shut right eye and a loss on his record.

After beginning his career 30-0, Valdez’s record now sits at 31-2 (23 KOs). He got outboxed by pound-for-pounder Shakur Stevenson, bounced back with a win over Adam Lopez, came up short against Navarrete, and is now out to prove again that taking the occasional loss at the top level doesn’t mean a fighter is finished.

“You can lose in boxing. But there’s an obligation to get back up and go and fight for your dream,” said the 33-year-old Valdez, a former beltholder at 126 and 130 pounds. “It got so popular to protect your undefeated record, it got so taboo to lose — ‘if you lose, you’re out.’ But we gotta remember, Erik Morales lost, Julio Cesar Chavez lost, Muhammad Ali lost, the greatest fighter of all-time.

“Losing doesn’t mean much. It all depends how you come back. That’s my mentality right now. It’s all or nothing for me now. I’m coming back, and coming back strong. I’m trying to be that example nowadays that you could fight the best, and, let’s say you lose, you could bounce back.”

Valdez recognizes how essential it is, at this phase of his career, that he indeed bounces back with a victory over Wilson (13-2, 7 KOs) rather than suffering a third defeat inside two years.

“We know that whoever wins this fight is a step closer to becoming world champion,” he said. “Whoever doesn’t, takes a couple of steps back and it will be harder to climb back up. That’s why this fight means the world to me.”

Wilson’s stirring loss to Navarrete was Valdez’s introduction to the previously under-the-radar Australian fighter — “and what an introduction too!” Valdez recalled. “It was a great fight, him and ‘Vaquero,’ he did send him to the canvas, he did hurt him, he almost had the world title. He almost had it; it just slipped out of his hands. 

“It was a tough fight, it was a good fight for fans, it showed a lot about him. He showed a lot of heart, he’s made of world-class material, he can become world champion. So, that’s what makes our fight very special.”

If Valdez does indeed manage to get back on the winning track on March 29, what else does he have in his sights for 2024?

“The world championship. Any world champion,” he said. “I’m not looking for easy fights. I’m looking for an opportunity. If I get the opportunity to fight against Vaquero Navarrete in a rematch, let’s do it. If I get a fight with O’Shaquie Foster, let’s do it. Lamont Roach? Anyone.

“It’s nothing personal with any of them. These are the champions, and when you’re champion, all fighters want to fight you. First things first right now, it’s beat Liam Wilson — then I want another world title shot.”

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