Oscar Valdez and Miguel Berchelt may not have delivered the fight of the year contender they and so many others anticipated, but what Valdez did deliver was a career-best performance punctuated by a knockout of the year contender.
Valdez, the heavy underdog, outboxed, outpunched and outhustled Berchelt, knocking him down twice before scoring a massive knockout in the 10th round to win the WBC junior lightweight world title in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card Saturday night inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong,” said Valdez, as he clutched the green and gold WBC belt. “I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols (including Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.) doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don’t’ let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
Heading into the fight many expected Berchelt, who was making his seventh title defense, and former featherweight titlist Valdez to put on a fight reminiscent of some of the great all-Mexican battles, such as between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.
But while it was certainly an entertaining fight, Valdez, the mandatory challenger, dominated most of the bout and fought a virtually perfect fight against his bigger, stronger opponent. In fact, Berchelt had blown up from 130 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in to a whopping 146.2 pounds on fight night to Valdez’s 140.
“Oscar Valdez proved he is one of the great Mexican champions,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who has promoted many great Mexican stars, including all three Barrera-Morales fights as well as fights involving Chavez, Juan Manuel Marquez and many others. “An absolute masterpiece in the ring tonight.”
Valdez was much quicker and used his hand and foot speed advantage to land stiff jabs and solid left hooks throughout the fight while darting away before Berchelt could land enough punches to do any major damage.
Valdez, an emotional fighter, also kept his poise and tied up just enough to prevent Berchelt from landing too many powerful right hands. He never allowed Berchelt to drag him into a brawl. The work trainer Eddy Reynoso, best known as Canelo Alvarez’s trainer and manager, has done with Valdez since he began training him in mid-2018, a stretch of five fights in a row, was clear.
Valdez gave Berchelt a bloody nose in the second round and continued to make him miss and make him pay in the third round.
Valdez had a huge fourth round, rocking Berchelt with a left hook to the temple and following with an uppercut and left hook to knock him into the ropes, which referee Russell Mora properly ruled a knockdown since the ropes kept Berchelt from going down to the canvas.
Berchelt’s legs were very shaky after the fourth-round onslaught and he was in such trouble in the fifth round that Mora implored him to “show me something” or he would stop the fight.
Berchelt rallied a bit in the sixth and seventh rounds but never came close to dropping Valdez or winning any rounds decisively.
By the eighth round Valdez was back in control, doing as he had done earlier in the bout – landing hooks, a few overhand rights and avoiding any major return fire.
In the ninth round, Valdez landed a clean right uppercut and a left hook to drop Berchelt for the second time with a minute left in the round. Berchelt, whose face was swelling, was in rough shape and seemed to be fighting only on instinct and heart.
Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs), 30, a two-time Mexican Olympian, rocked him with a left hook in the 10th round and then just before the bell rang to end it he landed a massive hook that short-circuited Berchelt’s legs and dropped him face first to the mat. Mora tried to catch Berchelt as he fell before waving off the fight without a count at 2 minutes, 59 seconds.
Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs), 29, whose two defeats have both been by knockout, was down for a few minutes receiving medical attention but was finally able to get to a stool before being taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Berchelt’s CT scan was normal and he did not need to stay overnight at the hospital, according to Top Rank.
Valdez landed 149 of 534 punches (28 percent), many of which we clean head shots, and Berchelt connected with 99 of 447 blows (22 percent), according to CompuBox.
Valdez led 89-80, 88-81 and 87-82 at the time of the stoppage, although judge Max DeLuca stunningly gave Berchelt the first three rounds.
But all Valdez cared about was winning what was by far the biggest fight of his career.
“I’m so happy right now, I can almost do a back flip like (unified lightweight world champion) Teofimo Lopez,” Valdez said of his fellow Top Rank fighter’s signature post-fight move. “I want to take this belt home, and I’m happy for that.”
As for what Valdez wants to do in the future, his aim is to unify titles and make big fights. Top Rank president Todd duBoef said he’d like to eventually match Valdez with Shakur Stevenson, the undefeated former featherweight titlist and top junior lightweight contender, who was at the fight.
“Any champion out there,” Valdez said. “I heard Shakur Stevenson wants to fight. Let’s do it. I just want to keep on fighting and give the fans what they want.”
by Dan Rafael