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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meet the man to rival Pacquiao

Thursday 11 February 2010
by Phil Barnett

Boxing comment: Venezuelan boxer and Chavez fan Edwin Valero is arguably more exciting than the Filipino star

Anyone still sulking about the collapse of Manny Pacquiao's blockbuster clash with Floyd Mayweather Jnr might just be about to perk up.

The possibility of a scrap between Pacquiao and Edwin Valero will drag even the most disillusioned fight fan out of the doldrums - a mouth-watering scrap rising from the ashes of the scuppered pound-for-pound play-off with Mayweather.

Valero, arguably the only fighter on the planet more exciting than the revered Filipino, has set his sights on what he rightly claims to be "the fight the world wants to see."

While a clash between pound-for-pound king Pacquiao and predecessor Mayweather must, for the good of boxing, happen at some point in the future, a Pacquiao-Valero tear-up would excite most boxing insiders more than any other fight in the last decade.

With a record of 27 stoppages from 27 fights, Valero is the most exciting and aggressive fighter on the planet. Pacquiao, meanwhile, is the most complete fighter of his generation, having started out at light-flyweight before moving through the divisions and dishing out beatings to everyone put in his way.

While Pacquiao-Mayweather would be an intriguing and necessary clash pitting the world's top two against each other, a fight between the Filipino firebrand and Venezuelan Valero would be pure indulgence for the viewing public.

It promises a blur of furious violence so thrilling that nobody would complain about paying hefty pay-per-view fees for a fight likely to last barely a few rounds.

After dismantling tough challenger Antonio DeMarco to force a retirement after nine rounds last weekend, WBC lightweight champion Valero, who moved up a division last year to capture that belt, revealed his ambition to step up again and compete at light-welterweight.

To do so would be to head tantalisingly close to Pacquiao-infested waters.

And just the suggestion of a fight between the two is prompting many in the sport to get excited.

First, it seems likely Valero will jump in at the deep end by challenging WBO light-welterweight champion Tim Bradley and, should he come through, with Pacquiao meanwhile navigating his way past Joshua Clottey, a meeting between the two will move to the top of the agenda.

"That's the fight the world wants to see," Valero said after impressing against DeMarco.

"I demonstrated once again (against DeMarco) that I am a boxer, that I do side steps and I'm technical. I've never said it, but all my team and the people around me know that I can box.

"It's just that a majority of the fights have been against boxers who have gone out early."

While it seems that promoter Bob Arum, who also promotes Pacquiao, is keen to throw him in against Bradley, Venezuelan Valero is also eyeing hardman Juan Diaz.

"I hope that it can be in Texas against the Baby Bull Diaz so I can prove I have power in this weight category," said Valero.

There, however, is the first of two stumbling blocks. Texas is the only place in the US where Valero can fight, because of an ongoing refusal to license him elsewhere due to an old head injury suffered in a motorcycle crash early in his career.

Unless that changes - and it would be a suspicious coincidence for a change of heart to suddenly occur if such a massive fight was in the offing - the fight cannot be staged in Las Vegas or New York.

The other obstacle in Valero's way is his desire to hold onto his WBC lightweight belt, with the scrapper appealing to the governing body to allow him to move up to 140lbs while retaining his title.

Keen to keep one of their most marketable champions, they may cede to his request, while Pacquiao is fighting Clottey in Dallas anyway, so why not stage a showdown there as well?

Valero's biggest challenge will be surviving such a dangerous tune-up fight, however, be it against Diaz or Bradley.

Wherever their allegiance lies, fans of the sweet science will be rooting for both men to come through and remain on this most tantalising collision course.


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