Oscar Valdez and Shakur Stevenson are just two days away from a big 130 lb unification fight in Las Vegas, a main event that will headline from the MGM Grand on ESPN and ESPN+.
Valdez (30-0, 23 KO) is bringing the WBC belt, with Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO) putting up the WBO title he won from Jamel Herring in convincing fashion last October.
The two met up at their final press conference today, and because this is a fight with two titleholders and definitely no “B-side,” a coin toss was done to determine who would walk to the ring second, and then be introduced first in the ring. The toss was won by Stevenson.
“I’m very excited for this. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of these type of opportunities. I can’t wait, I’m anxious to step in the ring.”
On Stevenson saying he didn’t want this fight before: “This is perfect time (right now). Shakur Stevenson is a two-time world champion right now, I am myself a two-time world champion. It’s a perfect time right now, let’s prove who’s the best at 130 lbs. This is the correct time to do it.”
On Stevenson turning pro on a Valdez undercard in 2017: “I was really focused on my fight I had in front of me, but I knew about Shakur Stevenson, I saw him in the Olympics. He was a great fighter back then and he’s turned into a great champion now. I don’t remember him from that day, because I was focused on my fight the same way I’m focused on this fight. Each fight I take very seriously, I focus on one thing, beating my opponent.”
On having Canelo in camp: “It’s great training beside Canelo Alvarez. You can always learn different things from fighters with great experience. But it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, because the ones who are going to be inside the ring are me and Shakur. It doesn’t matter if Canelo trained me or teaches me different things. It’s who has the bigger heart inside the ring on fight night.”
On prior big fights preparing him: “Those fights have built myself up to have the confidence and experience I have right now, being the fighter that I am. It was tough, but now we’re in this position. All those great fights I’ve had has turned me into the fighter I am right now with a lot of experience. Just continue building a career and building my legacy. We all want to be the best, we all want to be on the top of the pound-for-pound list. But to be on that list, you gotta beat fighters like in this case Shakur Stevenson, so that’s definitely the fight we have to win on our big step to become one of the top pound-for-pound.”
On carrying on the tradition of Mexican greats: “I grew up watching these fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales, and they inspired me to be the fighter I am. I want to inspire the new generation the same way they inspired me. To become someone like Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, or Juan Manuel Marquez, you’ve got to go through fighters like Shakur Stevenson with good names and good recognition. This is an opportunity for me to try to become something close to what my idols were.”
On whether he’ll bring an aggressive style: “You never know. We can bang if we have to bang, we can box if we have to box. It all depends what Shakur brings to the table.”
“I speak the truth every time I talk. I feel like he didn’t want to fight me at 126, and now we’re here at 130 and he was trying to fight (Emanuel) Navarrete before fighting me, but we’re here now. We can’t keep talking about that. The fight’s here, our fight’s Saturday, and I’m ready to fight.”
On his pound-for-pound aspirations: “I never said I’m on the pound-for-pound list, I said after this fight, once I get past Oscar Valdez, I’ll be on the pound-for-pound list.”
“I’ve been waiting on this moment my whole life. Years and years of training since I was an amateur to prepare for this moment, and I feel like I’m ready.”
On having Terence Crawford in camp: “We sparred each other, but I feel like it’s different with his camp because he had Canelo with him every step of the way. Canelo’s right there next to him telling him how hook, jab, and they were with each other every step of the way. So when I beat him I’m going to feel good beating him, Canelo, Eddy Reynoso and the whole team.”
On debuting on a Valdez undercard: “I was focused on my fight, but I saw him fight in the main event and I definitely thought about me and him fighting later on. I knew we were at the same weight, and it was always in my head that we were gonna fight.”
On prior big fights preparing him: “I feel like every fight is different. With those fights, they helped me to get to this moment, but styles are different. He’s not the same as a Jamel Herring, he’s not the same as a (Jeremiah) Nakathila. You never know, it may be easier or harder, you never know what type of fighter he is. Once we get in the ring we’ll settle it, but I’m prepared for whatever.”
On having a Puerto Rican flag on his trunks: “My father is Puerto Rican. He’s not here with us anymore, but I’ve got Puerto Rican (blood) in me. This fight is mainly about being myself. I’m putting my nickname on my trunks, too, so everybody can see what my family’s been calling me all these years. I just want to be authentic and keep being myself.”
On Valdez’s approach: “I think it’s BS (that he might box). I think he’s coming to bang and that’s it. I think he’s trying to trick me into thinking he’s about to try to box me and be technical, but I’m not falling for that. I’m ready for the Oscar Valdez who goes in there throwing all them hooks and putting on pressure.”
“I just want to keep the performances going. Ever since people have put the attention on me, I feel like I’ve been rising to the occasion every single time. Every time I get in the ring I put on spectacular performances. Expect another spectacular performance on Saturday night, as well as the main event. My brother Shakur Stevenson, me and him have been sharing this dream for years now, and I’m just excited to be fighting alongside him.”
“I’m just gonna go out there and do what I do. I feel like when I do what I do, it’s gonna be a spectacular performance.”
On Bob Arum comparing him to Sugar Ray Leonard: “I should come back out and keep fighting with that ‘fro, just like Sugar Ray. (laughs) Honestly, it really means a lot. When he said that — I never looked at myself like Sugar Ray, but when he said that I started watching more Sugar Ray, how he carried himself and how he fought and stuff like that. I’m just trying to learn from the best. Bob Arum is one of the greatest as well as Sugar Ray. I just went back to the drawing board like I always do to try and learn from the best.”
*Quotes via interpreter
“The big stage doesn’t impress me. This is my first time fighting in Las Vegas or the United States, but it has been my dream like any other fighter to fight at the MGM Grand.”
“We have been working on a good strategy with my trainer Joe Vargas, and I’m gonna do the work in the ring. I’m sure Keyshawn is going to do his work the same way, and the best man’s gonna win.”
“It will be a lot of technique, a lot of strategy, combine all that with my heart and come out victorious.”
Nico Ali Walsh
“I feel amazing. I think we all know at this point that the main event is probably going to be one of the fights of the year. Just extremely talented fighters, so just being part of it is a huge honor.”
“Everyone has tough fights at some point, I’m glad I was able to get that experience early on, and I was able to come back stronger. You saw that in my fight in January. Now I’ve had the time to spar some of the best guys in the world, and I’m back. This time around I’ll be able to showcase more.”
On opponent Alejandro Ibarra: “(Not showing up to the press conference) is definitely not sending a message. If anything, that’s not good on him. But it is what it is. I don’t know if he’ll be my toughest opponent, you find out when you’re in the ring. Like Mike Tyson said, everyone’s got a plan until they get punched, so we’ll see.”
Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage for Valdez vs Stevenson on Saturday, April 30, starting at 10 pm ET on ESPN and ESPN+.