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Oscar Valdez will “gladly” fight Shakur Stevenson: “The best have to fight the best”

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Valdez says he’s ready to face Stevenson next after beating Miguel Berchelt.

Miguel Berchelt v Oscar Valdez - Fight Night Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

WBC junior lightweight titlist Oscar Valdez put in a high-level contender for performance of the year — and knockout of the year — when he upset Miguel Berchelt in their highly-anticipated Feb. 20 fight, and now he says he’s seriously ready to go right in with Shakur Stevenson.

Interviewed by Max Kellerman on Max on Boxing for ESPN, Valdez (29-0, 23 KO) said he’s not looking to wait around and let a fight with Stevenson (15-0, 8 KO) “marinate,” and that he’s happy to do it next.

“Shakur Stevenson’s been talking for a long time, calling me out. He’s called me a fighter who’s ducking (him). I’m not scared of no fighter. I just want to fight, so let’s do it,” Valdez said. “I’m not scared of no fighter, I duck no fighter. The best have to fight the best. So if people want to see us fight, I’ll gladly do it.”

Valdez previously held the WBO featherweight title, and when Stevenson was his mandatory challenger, he moved up in weight to chase the Berchelt fight. Being totally honest, that read as a “duck” to a lot of people at the time, and Stevenson instead beat Joet Gonzalez for the vacant 126-pound belt.

But when Stevenson wanted bigger fights and saw little to do at featherweight, he followed Valdez up to 130. When Berchelt-Valdez fell apart for last December, Stevenson offered to fight Valdez then, but Top Rank stuck to the Berchelt-Valdez plan.

The iron is hot with Oscar Valdez right now, and the 23-year-old Stevenson is a favorite of Top Rank, ESPN, and many fight fans, seen as one of the most skilled young fighters in the sport. It’s a great matchup, two guys who both say they want it, and shared promoter Bob Arum has said he sees it as the biggest fight after Fury-Joshua.

A lot of conventional boxing wisdom would say to hold it off just a bit, for Valdez to make a defense or two, for Stevenson to get another fight or two in, juice the matchup and make it even bigger. But crazy things can happen in boxing, and we’ve seen plenty of “marinated” fights never wind up taking place. Given that this already has some buzz, it might be best to just go to it. People want to see it.