Oscar Valdez’s move up to 130 pounds didn’t go as smoothly as he might have hoped, but he’s now in line for a shot at WBC titleholder Miguel Berchelt after a somewhat controversial win over Adam Lopez tonight in Las Vegas.
Valdez (27-0, 21 KO) was originally supposed to face Andres Gutierrez, who came in an absurd 11 pounds overweight at Friday’s weigh-in, so the 23-year-old Lopez stepped in. Lopez was supposed to fight on the undercard in a featherweight bout, so he weighed in 126 yesterday while Valdez was at 129½.
But Lopez (13-2, 6 KO) had nothing to lose, and he fought like it in every good way. He was willing to try pushing the tough Valdez back, and he dropped the former featherweight titleholder in the second round of this fight. At the time of the stoppage in round seven, Lopez was reportedly up on the scorecards, and he did lead on BLH’s two cards, 57-56 on both.
Valdez, though, caught Lopez with a shot and put him down hard about midway through the seventh round. Lopez got up and fought on, but referee Russell Mora stepped in with just seven seconds remaining in the round.
The stoppage is controversial because Lopez was still up, still seemed to be aware, was still moving and defending, and it was so late in the round. If he’d gotten to go back to his corner, maybe he would have regrouped fully. Maybe Valdez still would’ve gotten him eventually, or maybe Valdez just would’ve taken over in the final three rounds. But Lopez had fought in a way that he deserved the chance for himself and everyone else to find out. We didn’t get that.
More results from Saturday:
Given the tragedies we’ve seen in boxing this year, so many things still fresh on our minds, it’s hard to get too down on Mora or any referee. And yes, it’s better too early than too late, given what awful things can happen with “too late,” but you still don’t want to see “too early,” either. It’s not an exact science and referees won’t ever be perfect, but it has to be noted. Pretty much everyone agrees, that I’ve seen, that this stoppage was early.
Valdez gave Lopez great credit, and said he did his father, the late Hector Lopez, proud with his performance.
“I was very surprised. I take my hat off to Adam Lopez, he’s a great fighter, great warrior, just like his father was,” Valdez said. “This is boxing. I was preparing myself for two or three months for Gutierrez, but no excuses. This kid is a warrior.”
“My experience helped me win the fight,” Valdez continued. “I’ve got a great amateur background and a lot more experience than him. He’s a great fighter, but my experience made me win.”
The fight sets Valdez up to face Berchelt (37-1, 33 KO), who has been an absolute wrecking ball at 130 pounds, and is generally agreed-upon as the top super featherweight in the sport. Berchelt was in the ring after the fight.
“Miguel Berchelt is a true champion inside the ring and outside the ring,” Valdez said. “The fans love him. That’s the one I want to fight. He has the WBC belt, let’s try to take it back home.”
“I think he looked great. I was a little bit surprised he got dropped, but I’m sure it’s going to be a great fight between me and him,” Berchelt said through a translator after the fight.
Asked why he’d fight Valdez instead of unifying, Berchelt said, “We were talking about it in the ring. We always wanted to fight in the amateurs, but it didn’t happen. It’s going to happen now that we’re pros.”
Lopez believes the stoppage was early, and that he should have been allowed to keep fighting, and he wants to do a rematch.
“He hurt me, but I was up. I was fine, I was blocking shots. I think he caught me one time and the ref jumped in and stopped it,” Lopez said. “I would’ve been fine if I finished the round, I would’ve come back. I think I was up on the scorecards. I would love a rematch with Oscar. He’s a true fighter. I’m not a 130-pounder, but I’m a real fighter, as well. Let’s get the rematch.”
He said he was glad to get the opportunity, and said again that he’d fight at 130 for a rematch with Valdez.
“I’m glad people know who I am now. I can fight,” he said. “People love my style. This is what I do, it’s in my blood. I’m not a 130-pounder. 126 is my weight class, I’m 23 years old. I’m still growing. But if they want a rematch, I’ll come back up to 130, no problem.”
When told that he surely made his father Hector, who passed away in 2011, proud with his performance, Lopez said, “I’m sure he’s up there smiling.”
Valdez will more than have his hands full with Berchelt if/when that fight goes down, but give big credit to Adam Lopez, too. This looks like a young fighter we’ll be seeing plenty more of going forward, and he could be a real threat in a 126-pound division that is currently emptying out a bit and undergoing a pretty notable makeover with the rapid exits of Leo Santa Cruz, Valdez, and Carl Frampton.