The Friday Faceup

Oscar Valdez (left) and Shakur Stevenson shape up.
(Courtesy: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

Two big fights feature this weekend from the USA.

In Las Vegas, Nevada is the unification fight at junior-lightweight between Mexico’s Oscar Valdez and American Shakur Stevenson. It pitches together two former Olympians and top undefeated professional operators, with Valdez holding the WBC championship and Stevenson the WBO title. The prestigious Ring magazine 130lbs (9st,4lb) championship will also be up for grabs.

A few hours earlier in New York City is a female lightweight fight between Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano. The contest is the biggest in the women’s code to date and takes place at Madison Square Garden, a mecca of boxing. Both ladies are in the top five pound-for-pound rankings, Taylor the unified 135lbs/9st,9lb champion and recognised by The Ring as #1, whilst Serrano is a multi-weight champion ranked #3.

The Vegas event promoted by Top Rank takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It’s an intriguing contest that’s sure to draw a large crowd from the Hispanic community as Valdez is a popular come forward fighter and Mexican’s love to see one of their own beat a US fighter. It has added spice as Stevenson has recently promoted his Puerto Rican heritage, the main fistic rivals of Mexico. The fight takes place on American Football’s NFL draft weekend so Vegas will be a buzz of activity.

Valdez (30-0, 23 KO’s) at age 31 is much more experienced professionally than his opponent, but Stevenson (17-0, 9 KO’s) has crammed an elite amateur career into his 24 years. The American is a slick southpaw who possesses sublime skills backed up by respectable power. Valdez is all action but has underrated boxing skills. It promises to be an excellent contest with the Mexican forcing the pace but we expect Stevenson’s youth, reach and greater skillset to be the deciding factors. We predict him to win by late stoppage (10-12) but it will be exciting while it lasts.

The Vegas card also features hot prospects Kershawn Davis at lightweight and Nico Ali Walsh at middleweight. Davis was the Tokyo 2020 Olympics silver medallist at 135lbs, is slick, charismatic and much is promised of him. He lost to probably the best boxer in the Olympics in Cuban Andy Cruz and his professional career is now back on track after the late held Games. He faces tough Esteban Sanchez and should shine.

Walsh is most famous as being a grandson of Muhammad Ali and is slowly building a name in his own right. He faces Alejandro Ibarra. Both prospects will be worth watching in their early development on Saturday night.

The New York fight promises much. Taylor (20-0, 6 KO’s) has achieved everything both as an amateur and professional. She won gold in the London 2012 Olympics and her career in the paid ranks has set the benchmark for others to match. She is already a boxing superstar down to her ability and good promotion by Matchroom Boxing. She now regularly heads major cards, but Saturday’s contest is on another level. The Garden is sold out for the first time for a female main event, making it of historical significance.

Serrano (42-1-1, 30 KO’s) has come up the hard way, fighting regularly on undercards and in boxing backwaters. She’s compiled an impressive record in winning titles from super-flyweight (115lbs/8st,3lb) to lightweight. The Puerto Rican is the bigger puncher of the two and Taylor with her aggressive style will have to exercise caution.

Their respective strengths should provide for an exciting contest and this will be a career defining fight for both. We expect Taylor to start well and be the busier with her fast hands and fight in and out, but we think that she might come up short after suffering knockdowns and a possible stoppage. We pick Serrano’s southpaw style and superior firepower to see her home, probably on points.

The Valdez-Stevenson contest will be shown live on Sky Sports in the UK in the early hours of Sunday morning and on ESPN+ in the US. The Taylor-Serrano fight will be live on the streaming platform DAZN approximately five hours earlier (UK time) and available worldwide.

Fight weights: Valdez (129.6lbs) Stevenson (130lbs), Taylor (134.6lbs) Serrano (133.6lbs). We have two fights.

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