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Sanchez impresses Top Rank in defeat to champion Valdez

WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez, left, celebrates his victory over Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez, right, Saturday in Reno, Nev. MIKEY WILLIAMS/TOP RANK

Jason Sanchez gave everything he had.

Everything he had wasn’t enough to defeat world champion Oscar Valdez, but it was enough to entertain a national TV audience – and to further enhance the Albuquerque featherweight boxer’s future as a contract fighter with Top Rank, Inc.

“The kid put up an incredibly game effort,” Top Rank Vice President Bruce Trampler told the Journal via social media, reacting to Sanchez’s loss by unanimous decision to Valdez Saturday night in a WBO featherweight title fight telecast on ESPN. “To his credit, he took the opportunity and did very well.

“Valdez was looking to blast Sanchez and fired everything he had, but the kid kept coming.”

Exactly what the future holds for Sanchez, Trampler said, can wait until the 24-year-old has rested after 12 grueling, bruising rounds in Reno, Nev.

Between now and his next fight, whenever that takes place, there’s work to be done.

Top Rank put Sanchez (14-1, seven knockouts) in with Valdez (26-0, 20 KOs) after its original choice was vetoed by the WBO. Entering the ring as a prohibitive underdog, Sanchez rarely stopped coming forward – throwing an average of more than 70 punches per round.

Valdez wasn’t nearly as busy but was far more accurate, and Sanchez never figured out how to avoid the champion’s punishing left hooks. Valdez won decisively on all three official scorecards.

“We got a chance to see Jason’s strengths and weaknesses against top opposition,” Trampler said. “His camp will see what they have to work on, where he can improve, and how to be better when he gets his next shot at a title.”

It’s arguable, though not provable, that Sanchez faced the best version of Oscar Valdez there has ever been.

After suffering a broken jaw in a fight against Scott Quigg in October 2018, Valdez switched trainers – mostly in hopes of improving his defense.

Sanchez had hoped that, in applying constant pressure, he could force Valdez to abandon his new, less-aggressive style and engage in a brawl like the brawler of old. But Valdez remained poised throughout, often catching Sanchez’s blows on his gloves or avoiding them all together.

Nonetheless, Valdez knew he’d been in a fight.

“Sanchez showed the heart of a champion, and he gave me a great fight for 12 rounds,” Valdez told the Reno Gazette Journal. “He has a lot to be proud of.”

MMA: Albuquerque strawweight Michelle Waterson’s nickname is “Karate Hottie,” but UFC President Dana White has thrown cold water on her chances for a title shot.

Though the matchup has not been announced by the UFC, it has been widely reported online that China’s Weili Zhang will face Andrade on Aug. 31 in Zhenzhen, China.

Waterson (17-6), riding a three-fight winning streak has publicly campaigned to be Andrade’s next opponent. A less than impressive performance by highly touted Tatiana Suarez (8-0) – and a neck injury – in her victory on Saturday at UFC 238 against Nina Ansaroff (10-6) was thought by some to have bolstered Waterson’s chances.

Not so, White said.

“Michelle Waterson? Definitely not Michelle Waterson,” White said at the UFC 238 post-event news conference. “Michelle Waterson doesn’t even want to fight until like September or October or something, and she’s ranked too low (seventh).”

In a Monday interview with espn.com’s Ariel Helwani, Josh Gomez, Waterson’s husband, made it clear Waterson would accept a title fight regardless of when it was scheduled.

Zhang is ranked sixth, just one spot above Waterson, but has an impressive 19-1 overall record and is 3-0 in UFC competiton. Zhang has a victory over Tecia Torres, to whom Waterson lost by unanimous decision in 2017.

And, clearly, White wanted Zhang’s presence for the card in China.

Monday, in the interview with Helwani, Waterson became emotional when discussing her longing for a title shot.

“I will rise to the occasion,” she said. “Give me a chance. Let me be UFC’s ‘mom champ.’ That’s all I’m asking.”

Waterson and Gomez have a daughter, Araya, age 8. None of the UFC’s female champions has been a mother.

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