The "weight" is finally over for Edmonton's Omar (The Mexicutioner) Valdez.
Prior to fighting Steve Cannell to a draw here last May, Valdez had to shed more than 20 pounds.
An 11-month layoff - made longer when a couple of scheduled bouts fell through - combined with the rigours of helping build the Beverly Bronx Gym from the ground up, conspired to transform the flashy bantamweight into a full-fledged welterweight.
"It was tough having to come down so much so fast to fight Cannell; after the very first round my legs felt like lead and I started to cramp up," Valdez said yesterday.
"This time, it's been a slow, steady process. It gets tougher with age, but I've had so much good sparring that I haven't even had to consciously think about making weight."
Good thing, because Valdez and Cannell are squaring off again Nov. 21 at the Palace Banquet Centre. The rematch, however, will be a 10-rounder at 122 pounds - with the Canadian Boxing Federation's vacant super bantamweight title at stake.
"I've dreamed of fighting for the Canadian title since I turned pro two years ago," said Valdez (4-2-2), who's rated the No. 2 contender in the nation. "Even in the amateurs, it was always there in the back of my mind. To get this opportunity after only two years as a pro is great ... and I definitely intend to make the most of it."
With two draws and a loss in his last three outings, Valdez hasn't notched a victory since beating Vancouver's Matt Leo in June of 2007. Cannell (2-1-2), who was born in Halifax but fights out of Santa Fe, N.M., is coming off an impressive decision over Dan Slezsak in June.
"I've got something to prove," said Valdez. "There's no excuses this time. My weight is great, my sparring has been the best I've ever had and my mental focus is 100% on winning the title. I've watched the tape of our first fight over and over again, and I don't think Cannell will have any surprises for me. For both of us, this is the big one. I think it'll be a great rematch."
The title fight will headline the first card produced by Sheldon Hinton's newly minted Prime Time Promotions, in association with Palace owner Roger Sarna. The five-bout undercard will feature three heavyweight brawls: Hinton vs. Halifax's Dean Storey (8 rounds); Edmonton's James Cermak vs. Alvaro Enriquez of Mexico City (4); and the debut of the Panther Gym's Rob Nichol vs. Nick Nee (4). The rest of the undercard will be announced on Monday.
"It's a whole different world putting together a show from the other side of the table," said Hinton (8-6-1). "A lot of running around, a lot of details to take care of, but I think my experience of working with a lot of different promoters in the past has been helpful. It kind of gives me a dual perspective on how I want the show to look.
"The response has been terrific," he added, praising Sarna and the Edmonton Combat Sports Commission.
As for combining promoting with training, Hinton said it's been "gruelling."
"Some nights it would be a lot easier to just get some sleep rather than doing more training, but you pay the price," he said.
"All of us down at Beverly Bronx owe a big debt of gratitude to (coach) Sterling Craig for all the hard work he's put in, both with the pros and the amateur kids. He's brought a lot of spirit to our gym, and I know how much the young kids look up to him.
"Sterling's told me he hasn't seen this kind of determination and willpower for a long time, so that's something for all of us to be real proud of."