Osar Valdez battles Robson Conceição. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
The Ring has made the extremely difficult decision to remove Oscar Valdez from the junior lightweight ratings following a brace of failed drug tests.
On August 31, ESPN’s Mike Coppinger broke the news that Valdez, who was rated No. 1 by The Ring at 130 pounds, had tested positive for phentermine (a banned stimulant) and, as a result, his September 10 WBC title defense against Robson Conceiaco was in serious danger of being called off.
Both champion and challenger had signed up for VADA testing as part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program, so the expectation among fans and media was that the Valdez- Conceiaco matchup, which was to take place in Tucson, Arizona, would be called off.
However, under a dark cloud, the bout went ahead with neither the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic commission, who were overseeing the bout, or the WBC, who sanctioned it, standing in the way.
Panel member Martin Mulcahey was the first to mention Valdez’s situation to the ratings panel on an email dated September 5:
“Are we going to address Oscar Valdez’s place in the rankings for a failed PED test? This is a bit like when we know a bad decision has been made inside the ring but have no real way of reversing official decisions. Only this time the bad decision has happened outside the ring.”
Performance enhancing drug use is paradoxically simple and complex. On one hand, you test positive for a banned substance and that should be it. But because testing agencies, commissions and governing bodies have handled cases so differently, based on their own protocol or lack thereof, consistency has gone out the window. The Ring have not been perfect in this regard either.
As you might expect, the Valdez case lit the blue touchpaper for a large back-and-forth between the rest of the panel.
“I’m thinking we should put it to a vote,” said Editor-In-Chief Doug Fischer in relation to the Valdez case. “If we believe Valdez took a PED and drop him from the rankings just based on that, could it be viewed as unfair given some of our previous decisions NOT to drop fighters who tested positive for banned substances? Absolutely. But I think we should just be transparent about that, acknowledge it and move forward. If we set a new standard with Valdez, I’m fine with that as long we hold everyone to the same standard.”
Managing Editor Tom Gray concurred with this take and weighed in on the Valdez case.
“Our reluctance to act really stems from the WBC’s reluctance and the commission’s reluctance,” said Gray.
“I have a lot of respect for [WBC president] Mauricio Sulaiman, but when he puts on his scientist hat – as he did with [Luis] Nery (when Nery failed a test in 2017) – it just doesn’t work. Valdez was 27 points over ‘the allowable limit’ for phentermine (the limit being 50) in terms of what falls into the category of contamination. What’s the point of (Clean Boxing Program) rules being in place if they’re this easy to bend?”
Some panel members elected to stay on the fence. Among those who felt that Valdez should be removed from the ratings were Michael Montero, Tris Dixon and Martin Mulcahey.
“When it comes to Valdez, I vote to drop him,” said Montero. “I think we need to add a disclosure at the bottom of our Ratings Rules/Policies about cases like this. We need to make some clear standards that are easy to follow.
“I believe we should follow VADA’s lead on PED testing standards, beginning with their Prohibited List. Remember, they do not distinguish between ‘in competition’ and ‘out of competition’ testing, they go by WADA’s ‘in competition’ panel 24/7/365 (which I believe is the smart way to go).
“This is a chance for The Ring to be a leader among our peers on an important issue.”
In the end, Valdez is responsible for what turned up in his system. The Ring will re-rank him as and when appropriate. For now, Valdez has lost his No. 1 position, and everyone moves up a spot with Robson Conceicao, who gave him a very stern challenge on Sept. 10 (doing well enough for some observers to believe the Brazilian should have won the decision), filling the void at No. 10.
RING RATINGS UPDATE (includes results from September 4-11, and fighter exits due to inactivity):
Pound for pound – Kazuto Ioka remains at No. 10 following a unanimous decision over Francisco Rodriguez Jr.
Super middleweight – John Ryder remains at No. 6 following a fifth-round stoppage of unrated Jozef Jurko.
Junior middleweight – Julian Williams exits the rankings due to inactivity. Sergio Garcia enters at No. 10.
Junior welterweight – Ivan Baranchyk exits the rankings following stoppage after seven rounds against unbeaten and unrated Montana Love. Batyr Akhmedov enters at No. 10.
Junior lightweight – Oscar Valdez is removed from the rankings. Tevin Farmer exits the rankings due to inactivity. Azinga Fuzile and Robson Conceicao enter at Nos. 9 and 10.
Featherweight – Gary Russell Jr. exits the rankings due to inactivity. Mauricio Lara and Josh Warrington remained at Nos. 4 and 5 following their technical draw, but both move up a spot as a result of Russell’s exit. Joet Gonzalez enters at No. 10.
Junior bantamweight – Kazuto Ioka remains at No. 3 following his hard-fought victory over Francisco Rodriguez Jr., who drops to No. 8. Kal Yafai exits the rankings due to inactivity. Pedro Guevara enters at No. 10.
Flyweight – Junto Nakatani advances to No. 2 following a fourth-round stoppage of No. 8-rated Angel Acosta, who exits the rankings. Ryota Yamauchi enters at No. 10
Junior flyweight – Sho Kimura exits the rankings due to inactivity. Masamichi Yabuki enters at No. 10.