RENO, Nev. – It was an opportunity too great, a paycheck too big, to pass up. And, in the end, Jason Sanchez proved he belonged.
There will be, however, no WBO featherweight title belt around the Albuquerque boxer’s waist when he comes home from Reno.
Champion Oscar Valdez, displaying the punching power that earned him the title and the improved defense he sought in recently changing trainers, defeated Sanchez by lopsided unanimous decision Saturday night.
Sanchez, fighting for a world title in just his 15th professional fight, is 14-1 with seven knockouts. Valdez, in defending his title for the sixth time, is 26-0 with 20 KOs.
The official scorecards read 117-10, 118-109 and 118-109 for the champion.
The Journal scored it 117-110.
According to Albuquerque boxing promoter Jordan Perez, Sanchez was paid $100,000 for Saturday’s fight.
Valdez had some kind words for Sanchez afterward.
“Sanchez showed the heart of a champion, and he gave me a great fight for 12 rounds,” Valdez told espn.com “He has a lot to be proud of.”
The Albuquerquean was knocked down in the opening seconds of the fifth round, his first visit to the canvas as a professional, and throughout had major problems getting out out of the way of Valdez’s left hook.
Sanchez was by far the busier fighter, throwing 869 punches to Valdez’s 509 according to statistics available on the ESPN telecast of the bout.
But Valdez landed 195 (38 percent) percent, compared to Sanchez’s 107 (12 percent).
Sanchez showed no awe or fear, throwing hard punches with either hand throughout the 12 rounds.
But he rarely was able to penetrate Valdez’s defense.
The challenger’s best moments appeared to come in the third, sixth and ninth rounds, which he won on the Journal’s scorecard.
In those rounds, Sanchez’s activity appeared to outweigh the harder and cleaner shots landed by the champion.
It was a left hook, Valdez’s most potent weapon throughout, that dropped Sanchez in the opening seconds of the fifth. Sanchez, unhurt, quickly got to his feet and fought the champion on basically even terms the rest of the round.
If there was any doubt about the outcome, Valdez removed it with his most dominant rounds of the fight in the 11th and 12th.
A Valdez right midway through the 12th appeared to stun Sanchez, but the Albuquerquean shook off the cobwebs and was still battling when the final bell sounded.
“I think people can see that Jason Sanchez is not an easy opponent,” Valdez told Albuquerque’s Southwest Fight News. “… He’s a hard-hitting fighter. He obviously hit me with some good shots. Much respect to him and his team.”