Oscar Valdez overcame depression, rib injury to challenge for super featherweight title

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 20: Oscar Valdez of Mexico punches Adam Lopez during their junior lightweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Oscar Valdez (L) said his win over Adam Lopez in May helped him mentally get back on track after suffering his first loss to Shakur Stevenson. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier via Getty Images)

If Oscar Valdez could completely erase 2022 from his memory banks, he would do it in a heartbeat. The former WBC featherweight champion not only suffered his first loss when he was outclassed by Shakur Stevenson in a match on April 30, 2022, but then suffered serious back injuries .

In a horrific accident that occurred after the Stevenson fight, Valdez, 32, slipped while walking down the stairs and broke several ribs. That kept him out of the gym for a long time. When he felt he was ready, on his first day of sparring, he was hit by a body shot and broke a couple of ribs again.

That was not the way he wanted to try to make things right after the scary loss to Stevenson. He was out until May 20, when he got a decision over Adam “Bluenose” Lopez on the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undercard at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

“I thought I was healed [after the slip] and I went into a sparring session and I got the broken ribs again and I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’” Valdez told Yahoo Sports. “They made me take that long break of over a year. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with someone like Adam Lopez. Just because I was going in there and winning that fight after everything that happened to me, I was happy for that.

“You never know how things will go in a situation like that, so when I did what I had to do in the fight with Adam Lopez, I was happy. And that opened the door for me to face a fighter like ‘Vaquero’ [Emanuel] Navarrete. I am very happy because I feel better than ever physically and mentally. I realized just how much I missed boxing after losing to Shakur Stevenson.

Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs) will fight Navarrete, who is 37-1 with 30 KOs, on Saturday in the main event of the Top Rank card at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

The win over Lopez wasn’t the most impressive of Valdez’s 31 professional bouts, but it did a lot for him in his mind.

He never thought that the fight with Stevenson would go the way it did, where it was difficult for him to hit Stevenson cleanly many times and he fell around after a round. He suffered greatly after the fight.

“I was going through a slump after that,” he said. “It was difficult. I’m going through that depression and I got injured and it made it worse and I thought, ‘Man, what am I going to do without boxing?’ Boxing has been such an important part of my life for a long time. I have been boxing since I was 8 years old.

“It was difficult to go through, but it was also an eye-opener for me. I realized how much I missed this sport and that I want to be a champion again and what I needed to do to get myself back to where I need to be.”

After struggling to come to terms with the loss to Stevenson, he finally began to come around as he realized that losing is as much a part of boxing as winning. Very few in the history of the sport get through without suffering at least one loss.

Valdez had been beating himself up about mistakes he felt he made or didn’t make in the fight when it finally ended he needed to put that where it belonged: in the moment who left

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 20: Oscar Valdez inside the ring before his featherweight fight against Adam Lopez, at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Oscar Valdez is 31-1 with 23 KOs heading into his fight Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, against Emanuel Navarrete for the WBO featherweight title. (Mikey Williams/Getty Images) (Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“It was very rough and I was going through my own battles with myself in my mind, talking to myself,” Valdez said. “And then one day, it hit me and things changed. I started talking to myself and I said, ‘You know, Oscar, you’ve got to take it. Look at it. You know in this sport, you win some and you lose some.’ It’s life. Inside the ring and even outside the ring, you don’t always win.

“And I started challenging myself and I was going down the right path. Then, suddenly, I fell down the stairs and broke mine [ribs]. I said, “Man, why is this happening to me?”

He himself was injured in Nogales, Mexico. It was raining and the stairs were metal. He was slippery and when he took a step, he fell and his back landed hard against one of the stairs. He had broken two ribs, it turned out.

He didn’t bother him because it was a simple and ordinary thing he was doing. Valdez lives life fast and takes risks that most people wouldn’t. And just after he got over his depression after the Stevenson loss, he injured himself and delayed his comeback.

“I do a lot of crazy things,” Valdez said. “I ride my horse very fast. I swim with my alligator. I’m always at the beach. I do these crazy things all the time and this simple thing like walking down the stairs hurts me. That was beyond frustrating. “

He can wipe it all out with a good performance against Navarrete. He is grateful to be back and with an opportunity because of what he went through. He did most of the fight against Scott Quigg with a broken jaw. He has broken his hand and has several other injuries.

“Nothing that has ever happened comes close to the pain you feel all the time from a broken rib,” he said.

He is healthy now, excited and ready to play. The crowd in Glendale should be gloriously loud and ready to put on a show.

“This is where I want to be and where I need to be and I’ve learned a lot about myself and this sport,” he said. “And I want to show everyone watching this that Oscar Valdez is back.

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