LAS VEGAS-You can throw away the prospect label on Oscar Valdez Jr.
He’s the real deal and proved it with a one-sided blow-out of former world title challenger Chris “The Hitman” Avalos on Friday.
Valdez (18-0, 15 Kos) continued his move up the featherweight ladder with his sizzling knockout win over Avalos (26-4, 19 Kos) at the Cosmopolitan. A crowd of more than 500 at the cozy Chelsea Theater saw the impressive showing for the former Mexican Olympian.
Valdez, 24, came out with sharp punches and was able to avoid any big returns from Avalos in the first round. Jabs were quick, counters were even quicker.
“He kept countering me, I couldn’t stop it. It was really bothering me,” Avalos, 25, said.
Both fighters came out more lively in the second round. Valdez beat Avalos to the punch several times. Avalos was able to land a flush right to the body and later to the head, but it was Valdez who connected more and was in control.
Valdez nearly finished Avalos at the end of the third round. Both unleashed left hooks and Valdez beat him to the punch again. Down went the fighter from Lancaster as his legs short circuited. But he beat the count and the bell rang.
After Valdez went into attack, Avalos tried staying away but the last punch of round four nearly ended the fight again. A left hook connected and the Lancaster hitter returned on wobbly legs to his corner. It was a point when Avalos’ corner could have stopped the fight. He looked unsure of himself but he went out for the next round.
Avalos didn’t look good entering the fifth round. Immediately Valdez attacked and though Avalos switched southpaw, and tried different defensive approaches, it was like putting a paper wall in front of Valdez, who tore through Avalos unimpeded. Several forceful combinations forced referee Russell Mora to end the fight at 1:17 of the fifth round for a knockout win for Valdez. Avalos’ corner erupted in anger, but the referee may have saved the Lancaster fighter from unnecessary punishment.
“This was the best I’ve ever seen him,” said Frank Espinoza, who manages Valdez.
Valdez was glad it was over.
“He’s a tough fighter. He wanted to keep on going,” said Valdez. “I thought I had hurt him but he wanted to keep continuing. I wanted to wear him down a little.”
Valdez was a little surprised the fight ended earlier than later.
“Everything we did in the ring we worked on in the gym,” Valdez said. “I was countering. I didn’t have a single problem with him.”
Top Rank’s Bob Arum was excited about Valdez.
“He’s got a big, big upside,” said Arum.
Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart (18-0, 15 Kos) defeated Aaron Pryor Jr. (19-9-1, 12 Kos) by technical knockout at 2:51 of the ninth round in their super middleweight match. Hart had his way the entire fight but was unable to land the telling blow until finally going to the body.
Undefeated Russian light heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev (10-0, 7 Kos) may have a ways to go before any world title aspirations and Brazil’s Junior Jackson (18-4, 16 Kos) let him know that before losing a close decision that saw both trade knockdowns. After eight rounds of back and forth bashing Mekhontsev won by unanimous decision. Barely. The scores were 77-74 twice and 77-73 for the Russian light heavyweight. Sergey Kovalev can rest easy for now.
Maryland’s Michael Reed (16-0, 9 Kos) won by technical knockout over Chicago’s Antonio Canas (10-3-1, 4 Kos) at 1:28 of the fifth round of their junior welterweight clash.
Dallas lightweight Thomas Smith (1-1-1) got his first pro win over Nebraska’s Frankie Winton (1-1) after four rounds. Smith won by unanimous decision over Winton, who’s a stable mate of Terence Crawford.