Five fights aren't much to go on, but Edmonton featherweight Omar Valdez is showing all the signs of becoming a bona fide prospect.
Since dropping a majority decision in his pro debut here last November, Valdez has progressed enough to indicate he might be the next crowd-pleasing "little guy" to strike a chord with local fans.
It's a long and honourable lineage that includes Wilfy Greaves, Al Ford, Tony Pep, Jason Adams, and, of course, the most exciting of them all: Scotty (Bulldog) Olson.
What sets Valdez apart is that he's establishing himself in a division that historically has been off the radar in Canadian boxing. Since losing to Jorge de Leon in his punch-for-pay debut, Valdez has reeled off four straight wins in the first six months of 2007, the latest being a workmanlike decision over Vancouver's Matt Leo on last week's School's Out card at the Shaw Conference Centre.
"I would have liked to knock him out, but that just shows that I've got more learning to do," Valdez said after winning every round on all three scorecards. "I thought my technique was pretty good, and my corner had a good fight plan, but he (Leo) takes a good shot.
"Experience is the best teacher. And the great thing about fighting in front of friends and family is that it makes you reach down and throw everything you've got."
In January at the Deerfoot Casino in Calgary, Valdez battled back from some early jitters to notch a split decision over Bobby Rishea, a veteran of 24 fights. He then demolished Leo at the Delta South Hotel in February, and in March he won another split over Steve Marsh.
With the little guys, it's all about teeing off toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring, and through his first five fights Valdez has made that his calling card.
Last week's win should be enough to vault him over Toronto's Buzz Grant into No. 3 in the July ratings from the Canadian Boxing Federation and start him on the road to an eventual title shot with national champ Olivier Lontchi (10-0) of Montreal.
Speaking of little guys, Canada's lone reigning world champion - super bantamweight Steve Molitor of Toronto - will defend his IBF belt for the first time when he faces South Africa's Takalani Ndlovu in a 12-rounder at the Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont., on July 14. The card will air live on TSN.
Edmonton fans got a preview of Molitor's future stature when he TKO'd Scotty Olson here five years ago. Now 23-0 with 9 KOs, he won the title last November by stopping Brit Michael Hunter in five rounds.
At 26-0, Hunter was heavily favoured, but Molitor's blazing speed and southpaw power were too much. He'll have to bring the same weapons against the much taller Ndlovu (23-3, 17 KOs).
COWBOY'S LAST ROUNDUP
With little fanfare, Calgary cruiserweight Dale (Cowboy) Brown announced his retirement earlier this month. The former Canadian and North American Boxing Federation champ, who competed at the 1992 Olympics, had a fine record of 35-6-1 (22 KOs) but came up short in three cracks at the world title. His last fight was a two-round KO loss to Darnell Wilson here in January ... For the first time since George Chuvalo 40 years ago, a Canadian-born heavyweight is rated among the Top 10 contenders by the World Boxing Association. Southpaw Jean-Francois Bergeron of St. Jerome, Que., improved to 27-0 with a UD over Robert Hawkins in Philadelphia last week to move into the WBA's No. 10 spot.