Photos by Mikey Williams / Top Rank
The long-awaited 130-pound grudge match is almost here.
WBC champion Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) and WBO king Shakur Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) had their first fight week faceoff Thursday, two days out from their unification showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Valdez-Stevenson, an eight-round lightweight co-feature between U.S. Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis and Esteban Sanchez, and the four-round Nico Ali Walsh-Alejandro Ibarra middleweight special attraction will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
At Thursday’s press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.
“I’m very excited for this. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamt of these kinds of opportunities, to be fighting for unified championships and to be fighting in Las Vegas. I’m just very excited right now to be in this mega fight, and I can’t wait. I’m anxious to step in the ring on April 30.”
“It’s the perfect time to have this fight now. Shakur Stevenson is a two-time world champion right now. I’m a two-time world champion as well. It’s the perfect time. Let’s prove who is the best 130-pounder. Let’s get it on April 30. Let’s just show it. I think it’s the correct time to do it.
On Shakur Making his Pro Debut on Valdez’s Undercard
“Just like in this fight, I was very focused on the fight that I had in front of me. I had known about Shakur Stevenson. I saw him in the Olympics. He was a great fighter then, and he’s turned into a great champion now. I don’t remember at all that day because I was very focused on my fight in the same way I am focused on this fight. In each and every fight, I take things very seriously. I just focus on one thing: beating my opponent.”
“It was great to train beside Canelo Alvarez. There are always things you can learn from fighters who have 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 trains me or teaches me different things. At the end of the day, it’s about who has the biggest heart in the ring on April 30.”
“I speak the truth every time I talk. I felt like he didn’t want to fight me at 126. Now we’re here at 130. He was trying to fight [Emanuel] Navarrete before fighting me. But we’re here now. We can’t keep talking about that. The fight is Saturday, and I’m ready to fight.”
“I never said I’m on the pound-for-pound list yet. I said that 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. It’s taken years and years of training, since I was an amateur, to prepare for this moment. I feel like I’m ready.”
“When Bud [Crawford] was in my camp, he came and we sparred each other. I feel like it was different from his camp because he had Canelo with him during every step of the way. Canelo was right there next to him telling him out to hook and jab. They were with each other step of the way. So, when I beat him, I’m going to feel good beating him, Canelo, Eddy Reynoso, the whole team.”
On turning pro on Valdez’s undercard
“I was on his undercard. I was focused on my fight, but then I saw his fight in the main event. I was definitely thinking about me and him fighting later on. I knew we were at the same weight. It was always in my head that we were going to fight.”
“I think he’s going to bang. That’s it. I think he’s trying to trick me into thinking he’s going to box me and be technical. I’m not falling for that. I’m ready for the Oscar Valdez who goes in there throwing hooks and putting pressure.”
“I really feel terrific. This shows how boxing should be produced. You’ll see in the main event two fighters who’ve had all of their professional fights with Top Rank. Now, they’ll be facing off against each other. And on my right, we have two prospects, one of whom has had an extensive amateur background and is considered by many to be the best amateur to come out of the United States in many years in Keyshawn Davis. The other is a young man who had very little amateur experience, but he has undertaken the task of making himself a great fighter in the professional ranks with the idea of making his late grandfather, the first fighter I promoted, Muhammad Ali, proud. Those are really great boxing stories. We’ll see that unfold on Saturday night.”