Valdez keeps it classy in buildup for title defense in Reno

Tahoe Onstage

Fan favorites: JJ Mariano, left, Gabriel Flores, Oscar Valdez and Diego Elizondo.
Isaiah Burrows / Tahoe Onstage

It’s almost time for the highly anticipated world title fight between Oscar Valdez and Jason Sanchez as pro boxing returns to Reno.

The featherweight boxers will touch gloves as the ESPN-televised main event on Saturday, June 8 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Valdez of Nogales, Mexico, will defend his WBO featherweight title for the sixth time against the up-and-coming Sanchez. Valdez, 28, is 25-0 with 20 knockouts over his professional career.

Valdez and Sanchez lace up gloves Saturday.
Isaiah Burrows / Tahoe Onstage

The featherweight champ has no plans of losing his precious title.

“I have that target on my back,” he said during his introductory press conference on Thursday at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in downtown Reno. “I don’t plan on losing this belt anytime soon. I want move and improve to bigger and better things, but right now (Jason) Sanchez is the only opponent on my radar. I have much respect for him and his team, but once the bell rings it’s all over and we gotta give a good fight for the crowd and the fans.”

Sanchez is 14-0 with seven knockouts. He is coming off an upset win over Jean Carlos Rivera last October in Panama City. Sanchez was signed to Top Rank and is focused on adding another upset to his resume against the favored Valdez.

“It’s been a great change with so much going on,” he said. “It’s been busy but I’ve been training hard and I’m ready. … Oscar is a tough guy, I just need to fight hard, space more and be active.”

A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a win for Sanchez can help put his city on the map.

“It would mean so much to me,” he said. “Bringing that title back home would mean so much.”

Valdez has a reach advantage over Sanchez, whose momentum leading up to the fight makes Valdez more disciplined.

“I’m expecting the best from every fighter I face,” Valdez said. “(Sanchez) put up a good fight. … This is what every fighter dreams of, fighting for the world title. But that only makes me more discipline in the ring and the gym. I work very very hard because I worked so hard to get here Anderson I have no plans of leaving.”

Along with the main event of the night, Gabriel Flores Jr. tops an intriguing undercard full of local talent. The 19-year-old  from Stockton is 13-0 with six knockouts. He will face Salavador Briceno (15-3, 9 KOs) on Saturday.

“I feel confident, I feel good,” he said. “I’m always in the gym. Day and night, it’s my life. It’s what I do and I’m ready to go.”

Flores Jr. is jumping from six rounds to an eight-rounder against Briceno.

“I did my debut here, so I’m excited to be back,” he said. “I’m ready to show up for my friends and family back there. … The jump in rounds just means more conditioning for me, which I love.”

Carson City’s Diego Elizondo and Reno’s JJ Mariano also fill an action-packed event on Saturday. Elizondo faces Sergio Vega, both boxers sport a 2-0 record.

Mariano will go toe-to-toe against William Flenoy in a four-round junior welterweight bout. It’s the first professional fight for both fighters.

Valdez and the 10-round co-feature will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+ at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Tickets for the world championship event can be purchased via Ticketmaster.com or in person at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa gift shop.

— Isaiah Burrows

Related story: Unbeaten Diego Elizondo stands tall in Carson City gym.

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.

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