By ESPN Boxing

TUCSON, Ariz. (September 23rd, 2017) — When Oscar Valdez fought for the first time in Tucson in 2015, he was a fast-rising prospect. But he promised he would return someday to fight in his childhood hometown as a world titleholder.

That is just what he did.

Valdez retained his featherweight belt for the third time in an action-packed unanimous decision against Genesis Servania on Friday night before a raucous crowd of 4,103 in the main event of the Top Rank ESPN card at the Tucson Arena.

Valdez lived in Tucson from ages 4 to 9, before moving back with his father to his native Nogales, Mexico, just over the border. He still has plenty of family, including his mother, and friends who live in Tucson. And he and Servania gave them quite a show.

Valdez won by scores of 117-109, 116-110, 115-111 in a slugfest in which he and Servania exchanged knockdowns. scored the fight 116-110 for Valdez.

“I’m very happy to fight here,” Valdez said. “Every corner I looked at I was seeing friends and family members. I love this place. I got much love for this place.”

His trainer, Manny Robles, said he thought Valdez was overanxious fighting at home.

“He’s got to listen. He lets his emotions get in the way,” Robles said. “He can make things a lot easier on himself, but fighting at home really got to him. He wanted to put on a show. Oscar is an aggressive fighter. He’s a crowd-pleaser. He wants to take these guys out and bang, but knockouts aren’t always going to be there. He was on a mission to get this guy, and it didn’t happen.”

The 26-year-old Valdez (23-0, 19 KOs), a two-time Mexican Olympian, opened the fight like he typically does — throwing left hooks and jabs and establishing his range. Servania was bouncing up and down and wasting energy but threw very few punches.

Valdez continued to throw left hooks to the head and body and also a stiff jab. The punches were audible at ringside, as Servania took a lot of heavy blows.

But when Valdez was backing up in the fourth round, Servania landed a right hand to the side of the head that dropped Valdez. Valdez didn’t appear hurt, but it was the second time he had suffered a knockdown as a professional.

“He caught me square, I can admit that,” Valdez said. “He got me good, but I wasn’t hurt.”

Valdez stormed back in the fifth round, sending Servania hard to the canvas with a hard overhand left. Valdez landed several thunderous shots in the round, but Servania took everything. Servania forced Valdez back in the sixth round and landed an assortment of clean shots that had Valdez uneasy in a fight that appeared to be getting closer by the round.

Valdez, whose face was showing the wear of the tough fight, seemed to maintain his edge. He was simply throwing more and landing more punches than Servania — who found his target, just not often enough, though he marched forward round after round.

According to CompuBox punch statistics, Valdez, whose purse was $400,000, landed 192 of 697 punches (28 percent), and Servania, who earned $55,000, connected with 120-of-450 (27 percent).

Valdez and Servania continued to go at each other in the 11th round, but it was Valdez, with a right hand, who knocked Servania off balance in the final seconds of the round.

They traded toe-to-toe during the 12th round, as the crowd cheered “Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!” Servania got in an uppercut and a right hand that knocked Valdez back, but Valdez ripped Servania with one-two combinations. They finished the fight in a heated exchange to conclude a tremendous battle.

“We knew this guy was tough,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said of Servania. “The guy had never lost. His reputation was that he was a real scrapper. But I think Oscar is the kind of guy who can beat any of these featherweights.

“He hits hard, and he’s a clever boxer. He’s a very, very good fighter. The only guy I wouldn’t put him in with is [junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl] Lomachenko.”

Servania (29-1, 12 KOs), 26, of the Philippines, was facing his first name opponent. He was upset by the scorecards being so wide.

“Let’s do it one more time,” Servania said. “Valdez knows how much I hurt him. I hurt him a lot. He knows it. Valdez knows he felt my power. It was wrong the way the scorecards came up.”

Valdez offered his assessment.

“I knew he was a tough fighter,” Valdez said. “I knew. But I’m not hurt, I’m not tired. I’m ready to go. I was hitting him with some good shots. I had to stay focused, knowing we might go 12 rounds when he took my shots. He had a tough chin. I thought maybe I could pull [a knockout] off. But he could take a punch.”

Arum hopes to match Valdez next year with former junior featherweight and featherweight titlist Carl Frampton (23-1, 14 KOs), 30, of Northern Ireland. Frampton signed a few days ago with manager Matthew Macklin, who has a close relationship with Top Rank.

“We’re going to try to get Frampton,” Arum said. “We would do it next year, and we would put it maybe someplace in Texas or maybe Las Vegas. Frampton would probably object to coming to Tucson, but we can find a place to do that fight. It’s a great fight.”

That is a great plan, as far as Valdez is concerned.

“I’m ready for whoever,” he said. “But Frampton, or [titleholder Leo] Santa Cruz, I am ready. Whoever it is. But I want Frampton. He has name. Let’s do it.”

Gilberto Ramirez Decisions Jesse Hart

Jesse Hart produced an admirable comeback Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to take away Gilberto Ramirez’s title.

Ramirez beat Hart by unanimous decision in a 12-round battle between unbeaten super middleweights at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona. Judges Lynne Carter (115-112), Chris Flores (115-112) and Glenn Feldman (114-113) all scored the fight for Ramirez.

Mexico’s Ramirez retained his WBO 168-pound championship and improved to 36-0.

Ramirez floored Hart in the second round and appeared well on his way to an early knockout victory. A determined Hart got his legs back under him and had some moments of his own later in what became a back-and-fourth fight, but Ramirez remains unbeaten.

Hart, 28, was the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Ramirez’s championship. The Ramirez-Hart fight was broadcast by ESPN as the co-feature before a main event that pit WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez against Genesis Servania.

Ramirez, 26, ruined the dream of Philadelphia’s Hart (22-1, 18 KOs), who wanted to do what his father, former middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, couldn’t do by winning a world title. Hart had knocked out 82 percent of his professional opponents prior to Friday night, but he fought mostly a low level of opposition before boxing Ramirez.

Ramirez made the second defense of the WBO super middleweight title he won by beating former champion Arthur Abraham by unanimous decision 17 months ago in Las Vegas.

Hart and Ramirez landed huge power punches in an action-packed 12th round that left much of the capacity crowd standing and cheering. Ramirez really hurt Hart with a left hand when there were 15 seconds remaining in their fight.

Hart’s hard right hand hurt Ramirez with 1:23 to go in the 11th round, but didn’t capitalize on that moment. Hart landed another right with around 40 seconds left in the 11th that stopped Ramirez in his tracks.

Ramirez hurt Hart with a left hand to the body just after the midway mark of the ninth round. Hart eventually fired back hard shots that temporarily kept Ramirez from following up.

The challenger seemed to find a second wind to start the ninth round. He landed a straight right hand that backed Ramirez into the ropes very early in the round.

Hart had some success in the eighth round by landing multiple right uppercuts and a left hook.

Hart landed a hard right uppercut early in the seventh round that snapped back Ramirez’s head. Ramirez kept moving forward, though, and continued to connect with hard left hands to the body.

Ramirez landed several hard body blows in the fifth round, though Hart didn’t appear hurt by those shots.

Ramirez hammered away at Hart throughout a completely one-sided fourth round. The champion connected with an array of body shots, straight left hands and right hooks during those three minutes.

Hart’s heart kept him upright in the fourth round, but Ramirez’s vicious assault in that round was an indication of what was to come.

Hart tried to get his legs back under him in the third round, only to have Ramirez land a very low left hand to his groin that caused a brief break in the action.

Ramirez spent the first round chasing Hart around the ring and couldn’t hit him flush. The southpaw landed a right hook that floored Hart with 1:25 to go in the second round, though, that completely changed the fight.

That shot hurt Hart badly, but he got up before referee Michael Ortega’s count reached 10, and found a way survive the trouble by moving and holding.

Hart opened the bout by moving around the ring, away from the busier Ramirez. The challenger also landed two right hands in the first round that got Ramirez’s attention.

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