On the heels of Emanuel Navarrete impressive 12 round decision when to retain his WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night there is no doubt he was the better fighter against former champion, Oscar Valdez.
Further, there’s no doubt that Valdez was valiant, even while being hit with an onslaught of punches down the stretch of the fight, causing his eye to be badly bruised and swelling closed in the final couple of rounds. After he got his hand raised in an easy unanimous decision win, Valdez’s heart and ability to take shots was never in question.
What is in question coming off the fight weekend is- why was Valdez not further evaluated by his own corner, the referee in charge, Wes Melton and by the ringside doctor in Glendale, Arizona?
It’s a point that we discussed on our most recent edition of the “Fight Freaks Unite Recap” podcast as Dan Rafael joined me to go over Navarrete’s win and the punishment Valdez was taking late in the fight. You can hear our comments on the podcast by clicking play below,
On the ESPN fight broadcast former world champion, and now hall of famer, Tim Bradley as the analyst also questioned at the beginning of the 11th round why the doctor had not even come to look at Valdez’s eye? An eye which was grotesquely swollen and obviously impeding him from mostly seeing, if not being able to see at all, Navarette’s best weapon- his left uppercut.
Again, no one is disputing that Valdez is a tough, former champion and was wanting to finish the fight, and his corner was going to try to let him do so, but the mechanism should be in place for fighters safety to at least check on him.
Now, a valid comparison is the heavyweight bout in England earlier this year where former unbeaten WBO number one contender Joe Joyce suffered a badly swollen right early on in his fight with China’s Zhilei Zhang. Eventually, the referee took Joyce over to the doctor, who checked his almost closed eye with a vision test and still allowed the fight to go on. To his credit, Zhang continued to pepper Joyce with hard punches to the eye and eventually, Joyce was brought back to the doctor a second time on the ring apron. He proceeded to cover his good eye in a test and then, told the referee, Joyce can’t see and he should stop the fight. The referee did for Zhang upset TKO.
None of that was done at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday night.
So, when the discussion about fighter safety from his own corner and from those in charge of looking out for it on fight night comes up, these type of complete inaction should be scrutinized.
Was Valdez ever really seriously hurt, even in the final two rounds of the fight? No. But, was he being hit hard enough and damaged enough in the right eye to not being able to see punches coming at him that he could have seriously been hurt in those final couple of rounds? That is a very valid concern.
A concern that the Arizona commission, the ringside physician and the referee mostly ignored at the end of that title fight.