Saturday night saw former Featherweight champion, Oscar Valdez against Junior Lightweight boogeyman and WBC champion, Miguel Berchelt (37-2) in an all-Mexican showdown in what was a Fight of the Year candidate before either man stepped foot in the ring.
The fight that ensued did not lack in action, but certainly was not what most expected.
Oscar Valdez, for all intents and purposes, looked like a brand new fighter, showcasing techniques and skills that he had not presented a mastery of in fights prior.
Instead of a defense-absent, head-clashing brawl, where Berchelt typically bullies his opponents into submission, Valdez put on a masterclass performance, brutally boxing circles around the now former champion prior to finishing him in Round 10.
Early in the fight, it was clear that Valdez’s focus was just that: focus. The undefeated fighter was hyper-aware and locked in from the opening bell, matching feints with jabs, footwork and defense to control the center of the ring to set up what was to come in the pursuing rounds.
Berchelt clearly respected Valdez’s power as the champ had eaten a number of stiff jabs over the course of the first four rounds. The Eddy Reynoso effect was much more clear in Valdez’s fifth fight with the acclaimed trainer–utilizing his jab, defense and footwork to set up the coming power shots.
In usage of these techniques, Valdez was able to control the ring and dictate the pace of the competition, sticking true to his word of not getting into a fire fight with the infamous pressure fighter.
After working to find an opening, Valdez blasted Berchelt with a left hook, wobbling Berchelt dramatically. The champion struggled to find his footing the remainder of the round, finally being sent into the ropes for a technical knockdown following a barrage of punches. Even as he stood for the eight count, Berchelt stood on unsure ground, but shockingly survived into the next round.Embed from Getty Images
As the fifth round ensued, Berchelt’s legs remained unsteady until seemingly the last 30 seconds of the round. Prior to that point, it was more of the same with Valdez finding a home for his left hand by way of jab and lead hook.
Nonetheless, Berchelts toughness and heart was on full display, as it was the duration of the bout. However, few could have forecast the conversation surrounding Berchelt following this bout would be about his bravery in one-sided defeat.
Surprisingly, in the sixth round, it appeared as though Berchelt had mostly recovered, and looked the best he’d looked in the fight, likely winning his first round. Most importantly, Valdez landed a clean left hook which Berchelt was able to absorb without being wobbled as he had been from the same shot multiple times in the rounds prior. However, it would become clear that couldn’t last for long for the defending Champion.
In the eighth round, following a miniature resurgence in Round 6 and 7 by the champion, Valdez got back to effective boxing and movement. Now switching stances from southpaw to orthodox, landing at will from both sides and moving around Berchelt the entire round.
In the ninth, it seemed to all come together for Valdez, once again utilizing incredible angles, switching stances, and seemingly landing whichever shot he chose to land, planting Berchelt firmly on his back with a blistering combination with the right uppercut as the centerpiece.
In the 10th round, Valdez continued to box circles around the soon to be former champion, landing several powerful shots to the head that left Berchelt searching for footing with each step.
As the 10th ended, Valdez landed a devastating left hook that concluded the night in a shocking and terrifying way.
The knockout acted as an exclamation point to a masterful performance by the now two-weight world champion.
A night which was expected to be marked by a Fight of the Year candidate resulted in a frontrunner for Knockout of the Year by the heavy underdog.