Oscar Valdez relished the aftermath of proving many doubters wrong on Saturday night, as his KO win over Miguel Berchelt was as thorough and impressive as the new WBC junior lightweight world title could have put together.
After 10 rounds, most of which were spent dictating the fight in the direction he wanted to take it, Valdez further stunned the boxing world by delivering a devastating blow to Berchelt in the face, knocking Berchelt out and losing it. fight ended with just one second. left in the round.
Brett Okamoto and Michael Rothstein break down the night’s biggest moments in Las Vegas, projecting what comes next for both fighters, as well as Top Rank Boxing’s calendar for the future. Ben Baby is also responding to Adrien Broner’s return to the ring for the first time in nearly two years.
What’s next for Oscar Valdez after the biggest win of his career?
Rothstein: Valdez fought the perfect fight. An absolutely perfect fight. From the first round, everything Valdez did was one step ahead of Miguel Berchelt and ended with a vicious one-hit knockout in the 10th round, a left hook right in the center of Berchelt’s face.
How the fight ended summed up how Valdez fought all night. He ducked from a Berchelt blast, got up and connected to send Berchelt to the canvas.
It was a consistent combination of speed and effective landing hooks from Valdez throughout the night. The strategy astonished Berchelt in the first two rounds, gave Valdez a knockdown in the fourth round, a second knockdown in the ninth and finally the knockout in the 10th.
The only thing that could have kept Valdez from winning the title by then was a miracle from Berchelt (37-2-0, 33 KO), who didn’t seem to have much left from a round or two before then.
This win bolsters the career resumption of Valdez (29-0, 23 KO), who now takes the title in his second division after six defenses for the WBO featherweight world title. Now that he is the defending champion again, the new WBC junior lightweight world title list has options.
His next potential opponent may have been ringside. The money fight for Valdez could very well be against Shakur Stevenson, the undefeated rising star who also happens to be part of Top Rank’s stable of fighters. He’s also the No. 2 rated fighter in the division by the WBC, so it might make sense from that standpoint too.
Congratulations champion @ oscarvaldez56 I respect what you did tonight, surprised me .. It’s only 1 BATTLE to make now!
Shakur stevenson (@shakurstevenson) February 21, 2021
Stevenson-Valdez would be an interesting contrast of styles and a fight that could put fans on the seats in the middle of the year. Valdez was open to it after the fight too, and even suggested it in his post-fight interview.
It’s the fight to make and seems to make the most sense in the near future. The other option, if Valdez decides he wants to try to unite the division, is to watch the Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton fight later this spring and wait for the winner.
But even with that fight, Stevenson seems to be the smarter way to go.
How did Berchelt lose, and what is the future for him?
Okamoto: Berchelt didn’t lose his title as often as Valdez took it away from him. Let’s make that clear right away. Valdez looked masterful from the start and Berchelt was stunned and faded in the fourth round, when Valdez put him on the skates with a left hand and got his first knockdown. Valdez might have killed him there if the bell hadn’t come. Berchelt showed a lot of heart in the following rounds and tried to turn the tide with nothing more than pure pressure and strength.
However, it was clear he had no answer, at least on Saturday, for Valdez’s changes in speed and attitude. Berchelt looked lost early on. He never looked comfortable in his counterattack, and more or less left it after the fourth round when he committed to a high-pressure approach. At the age of 29 he is still one of the best junior lightweights in the world, but he will unfortunately have to prove that this is still the case next year after a result like this. He will have to prove that the devastating nature of this loss does not alter his ability to take a hit or his willingness to take a hit.
If and when he deals with another fast-paced, technical fighter like Valdez – or Vasiliy Lomachenko, who he might have called up had things been different on Saturday – he’ll have to prove he learned from this disaster. He probably needs some sort of comeback fight, an opponent who is not in the top five of the division. If all goes well, a title fight is not far off.
Maybe he’ll also think about weight gain, which would also have been a topic after the fight had he won, but there’s no reason to believe 130 pounds still can’t be a great home for Berchelt. But there will be inevitable questions he will have to answer when he returns.
Boxing needs fans again
Okamoto: I was ringside for tonight’s fight in Las Vegas. I thought this was going to be a night where fans would be missed – I thought it would be due to a back and forth war, and not a one-sided Valdez masterclass. Either way, the reality is the same. Boxing missed its fans greatly tonight.
There was a moment before the strike, when the MGM ballroom went dark and the house music went off. It was one of those times when everyone in the building knew the main event fighters were about to run. I’ve experienced that feeling hundreds of times in a crowded arena, and I can’t even really put into words how strange it felt on Saturday. It was so quiet you could hear individual conversations in the room.
When the hunters ran and they were announced – frankly, I think Top Rank produces the best energy it can – but it’s hardly related to an actual audience. And of course, the fight itself, when Valdez dropped Berchelt in the fourth and Berchelt tried to push his way to victory in the ensuing rounds when he was still injured, a crowd would have added so much to that. Hopefully we are close to that.
Top Rank believes Saturday was the last night in the bubble. The promotion plans to move to Florida and / or Oklahoma for the following events in April, and then be back in Vegas in May – at a time when, hopefully, fans will be able to return.
Gabriel Flores Jr. finds big KO as rising prospects make ends meet on Berchelt-Valdez undercard
Rothstein: Gabriel Flores Jr. Looked less than sharp. Jayson Velez landed some punches and put together some combinations. But then, on the sixth round, 20-year-old Flores showed why he is considered a rising prospect in the junior lightweight division.
A right to Vélez’s head sent him down once. A flurry of punches ended the fight moments later, securing a major victory for the Stockton, California resident. It was a big showcase in the co-main event, taking in fans who tuned into that title fight a little early.
Flores staging a knockout – his first since a third-round KO of Eduardo Pereira Dos Reis on May 4, 2019 – was an added bonus as it was only his second knockout in his past 14 fights. It showed some of Flores’ combination of speed and power. After the fight, Flores said he had “sent a statement that I am ready for a world title.”
That feels a bit fast to him, given the strength of the division. In addition to Berchelt and Valdez, there are also Shakur Stevenson, Leo Santa Cruz, Joseph Diaz Jr., Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov, Jamel Herring and more in the division.
But it was an impressive show that should give him a real shot at another high-level opponent. When Flores Wins Which arguing, then there might be a title shot in his near future, especially as the IBF belt is currently empty.
The other two prospects on the undercard – junior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10 KO) and welterweight Xander Zayas (7-0, 5 KO) – came in, which was crucial to both of their advancements with Rodriguez in 12 pro fights and Zayas in seven pro fights and many short nights in their careers so far.
For Rodriguez in particular, it’s his first time throwing the distance in a fight and this fight should give him a good amount of tape to work with as he works on improving some key elements in the ring. Rodriguez admitted this after battling a passable play against Luis Alberto Veron (18-3-2, 9 KO), saying he should get back to the gym and work on getting his hands out more.
These kinds of learning experiences can be useful a year or two later, when the stakes get higher.
What has Saturday’s fight against Jovanie Santiago told us about Adrien Broner’s current condition?
Baby: Saturday night was Adrien Broner in a nutshell. He showed flashes in the ring against Jovanie Santiago in a unanimous but controversial decision. Broner landed 100 fewer punches than Santiago and looked slow in the ring again. And perhaps his most entertaining moments of the night in the interview came after the fight, when Broner’s boisterous personality clearly wasn’t rusty despite the lack of action.
In other words, it was peak Broner. And at this point, that’s not enough to challenge an elite at 140 pounds where he wants to fight, and 147 pounds where he actually fights.
Broner’s best moments came in the middle rounds, including one in the eighth round when a Broner hook caused Santiago to do the splits and he was inches away from touching the canvas.
But Santiago rallied on lap 12 and at least made the fight close. Even though there should have been a big gap between the two men, it wasn’t clear on Saturday. And yes, Broner is coming off a long layoff, but when he missed six pounds and the fight was changed to the welterweight limit towards the end of the fight week, his commitment to being in fight form is hard to believe.
With his win (with some very questionable scorecards, including an inexplicable 117-110 from Peter Hary), Broner probably secured another hefty payday. At this point in his career, that’s probably the best he can ask for.
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