CARSON, Calif. (AP) Oscar Valdez knows all about the weird, wild history of the outdoor boxing venue at StubHub Center.
From jaw-dropping brawls and title-fight upsets to the occasional boxer accidentally falling through the ropes, fans in this Los Angeles suburb seem to see something incredible at every show.
The WBO featherweight champion would love to write his own chapter Saturday in his first appearance in a main event under those lights.
”There’s something about that arena that always leads to good fights,” Valdez said. ”I’ve witnessed a lot of great fights there myself. I’m going to put on a show.”
Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) won’t have to do it alone. His title bout against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga will finish a pay-per-view card featuring three championships fights and a host of serious young prospects, including U.S. Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson in his pro debut.
Before Valdez and Marriaga (25-1), Mexico’s Gilberto ”Zurdo” Ramirez (34-0) defends his WBO super middleweight title against Ukraine’s Max Bursak (33-4-1), and Las Vegas native Jessie Magdaleno (24-0) also attempts his first defense of his WBO super bantamweight title against Brazil’s Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2).
”It means a lot to me,” Valdez said of his position in the main event. ”I know these guys are all great fighters. (Ramirez or Magdaleno) could have been the main event, and they chose me, so I’m very grateful for that and I’ve got to make it work. I’ve got to go in there and take responsibility to put up a good fight.”
The card also includes the professional debuts of two stars from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics: Stevenson, who begins with a six-round bout against Edgar Brito, and Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, who won a light welterweight gold medal for Uzbekistan eight months ago.
Valdez already has fought in the Carson ring three times in his still-young pro career. He had his third professional fight here in 2013, winning on a card headlined by Timothy Bradley’s raucous brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov in a fight that still bends plausibility four years later.
Valdez is a two-time Mexican Olympian who was born in Nogales and raised in Tucson, Arizona. He seems to have the charisma and ability to become a bankable star on both sides of the border, although his recent visibility has been somewhat limited by having four straight fights on pay-per-view shows in the U.S.
While he waits for a premium cable network to get interested in him, Valdez is eager to keep building his credentials for stardom. He has a difficult task against the free-swinging Marriaga, who has won five straight fights since his only defeat in a title fight against Nicholas Walters in 2015.
”I want everybody to come after me,” Valdez said. ”I want to come after everyone. I don’t like taking long breaks. I want to stay in the gym. This is my life. This is what I like to do.”
Valdez, Ramirez and Magdaleno have developed a bond that has prompted promoter Bob Arum to dub them ”The Three Amigos.” The fighters held their training camps together at a gym just a few miles from the outdoor ring in Carson, becoming virtual teammates and good friends.
Veteran trainer Manny Robles will be in the corner for both Valdez and Magdaleno, who is attempting his first defense of the title he won in November by stunning veteran Nonito Donaire.
Thanks to surgery on his right hand, Ramirez hasn’t fought since winning his title in April 2016 with a decision over Germany’s Arthur Abraham. The Mazatlan native is just the second Mexican fighter to win a world title above 160 pounds, and he has a chance to become a star in a division with few big names.
In keeping with its international theme, the card also includes the first pro fight for Gaibnazarov, who won light welterweight gold eight months ago by knocking off veteran Cuban-Azeri amateur Lorenzo Sotomayor.
Gaibnazarov, who takes on Victor Vazquez (7-2), has moved to Southern California to chase professional success in a training camp with Ukrainian champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Aleksandr Usyk, among others.