Top Rank's Bob Arum lays out plan for Oscar Valdez, Shakur Stevenson at junior lightweight

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LAS VEGAS - WBC junior lightweight champion Oscar Valdez is set to return to the ring in September for a voluntary title defense against Robson Conceicao in Arizona, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN on Thursday.

Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) is coming off a significant upset victory over Miguel Berchelt in February to win the title. He delivered a devastating knockout, one that will likely be a knockout of the year candidate, in a win that launched him to the top of the junior lightweight division.

Since that victory Valdez has been called out by multiple top junior lightweight contenders, including Shakur Stevenson, who headlines Saturday's ESPN show vs. Jeremiah Nakathila.

Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) told ESPN multiple times this week that Valdez is the opponent he wants next, saying, "Valdez and me is the biggest fight out there at 130. He's a young, hungry lion, undefeated, never lost before. I'm a young, hungry lion, also undefeated, never lost before. He's in his prime. I'm pushing up on my prime. I feel like that has to be next. It's been a long time coming. What are we waiting for? We are both with Top Rank. It shouldn't be a hard fight to make."

But Top Rank, which promotes Valdez and Stevenson, setting Valdez with a September fight against Conceicao means Stevenson will not get his wish.

Top Rank is moving ahead with its original plan that vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN, which includes Saturday's winner facing Herring before the end of the year. Arum added Thursday that the paperwork for that Herring-Stevenson bout is already prepared, and they are aiming for it to occur this winter at Madison Square Garden.

Stevenson is the mandatory challenger for Herring's WBO title, and Herring sent a letter to the WBO saying he would fight the winner of this bout instead of vacating his title. Top Rank's plan is to put Valdez against the winner of Stevenson-Herring, assuming all parties involved continue to win, in a big 2022 unification fight on ESPN.

Valdez will face an opponent in Conceicao who he will be heavily favored to beat but tends to have a knack for making entertaining fights.

Conceicao is 16-0, 8 KOs. He won gold medal at 2016 Olympics.

ESPN incorrectly stated that veteran Andrew Cancio was next in line to face WBC junior lightweight champion Oscar Valdez. Valdez's next opponent for his voluntary title defense should be Robson Conceicao, not Cancio, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum.