NEWARK, New Jersey – Robson Conceicao believes he did enough to take the WBC super featherweight title from Oscar Valdez a year ago in Tucson, Arizona. Conceicao (17-1, 8 KOs) officially lost a unanimous decision to Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), who surrendered his WBC belt to Stevenson in his subsequent bout April 30 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) was scheduled to defend his WBC and WBO crowns against Conceicao in a 12-round main event ESPN will air from Prudential Center in Stevenson’s hometown of Newark.
However, Stevenson was forced to vacate the belts when he failed to make weight at Thursday’s weigh-in. The fight will still move forward – but only Conceicao is eligible to win the titles.
“I’m very motivated,” Conceicao said through a translator during their press conference at Prudential Center. “I trained all my life for this moment. The world was able to see that I was better than Oscar Valdez. I should’ve won, so [Stevenson was] not really defending two titles because actually one should’ve been mine. I’m just a champion without the crown, and I’m ready for Friday night.”
Stevenson, who dominated Valdez in their 12-round championship unification fight, disputed Conceicao’s claim.
“I mean, he a good fighter, at the end of the day,” Stevenson said. “But um, I think he lost to Valdez. I feel like if you left it in the judges’ hands, you lost. So, I fought Valdez. I beat the sh!t out of him. So, at the end of the day, I don’t got no excuses. He keep talking about he had COVID or something before his last fight [a unanimous points victory over Xavier Martinez on January 29]. All I’m hearing is excuses, at the end of the day. I’m ready to fight. Tell him don’t have no excuses Friday night. I’m ready to beat him up.”
CompuBox credited Conceicao for landing 58 more punches overall than Valdez (141-of-576 to 83-of-390), but all three judges scored that fight for Valdez last September 10 at Casino Del Sol.
Judge Stephen Blea (117-110) scored nine rounds for Valdez. Judges Omar Mintun (115-112) and Chris Tellez (115-112) scored seven rounds apiece for Mexico’s Valdez, which appeared more in line with the competitive nature of a back-and-forth fight in which Conceicao got off to a fast start.
The 25-year-old Stevenson – an intelligent, highly skilled southpaw – defeated Valdez 118-109 on the cards of judges Dave Moretti and David Sutherland. Judge Tim Cheatham scored one additional round for Valdez, who lost 117-110 on his card.
Stevenson dropped Valdez in the sixth round of their bout. Conceicao, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, didn’t knock down the former champion, though he had a point deducted for hitting Valdez behind his head in the ninth round.
The 33-year-old Conceicao has lost only to Valdez, but Caesars Sportsbook still listed Stevenson as a 30-1 favorite Thursday. Their fight will headline a two-bout broadcast scheduled to start at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.