Top Rank’s “Summer Series” on ESPN came to an end — though there are more summer Top Rank cards to come in late August — with Oscar Valdez becoming the first man to stop rugged veteran Jayson Velez in the main event.
Valdez (28-1, 22 KO) wasn’t perfect tonight, and admitted that himself, but he dropped Velez (29-7-1, 21 KO) in the fifth and 10th rounds, both on left hooks, and finished late in the 10th, 2:23 of the final round, to be exact.
Velez was able to keep his workrate high enough to stay competitive, but Valdez was more efficient and set up his power shots better, even getting clipped now and then. Velez also had a point docked in the ninth round on a low blow. At the time of the stoppage, BLH had it 87-82 on two separate scorecards, both for Valdez.
“I felt a little rusty at first, but I was in shape to go to war, I was capable of that,” Valdez said post-fight. “I thank Eddy (Reynoso) and my teammates in the gym, because we always work hard. In boxing we never stop learning, there’s always something new to learn. I do feel I’m improving in the gym. I’d give myself a seven, I wasn’t all that great. I want to keep on working and become a WBC world titlist.”
WBC titleholder Miguel Berchelt (38-1, 34 KO) is expected to be next for Valdez, a former WBO featherweight titleholder who moved up last year without losing his belt. Berchelt will be favored and is considered the No. 1 man in the division, and Valdez has nothing but respect for the man he expects to face next.
“I’ve got a lot to improve. Berchelt is a great champion, a great warrior, I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” he said. “But I’m hungry to be a world champion again. He has something everybody wants, the WBC world title. That’s definitely the fight I want. That’s the fight the fans want. Two Mexicans inside the ring, there’s always gonna be fireworks.”
This was a performance with highs and not necessarily lows, but certainly some questions. ESPN analysts Tim Bradley Jr and Andre Ward — both former world champions — both gave Valdez mixed reviews for this win, but stopping Velez is nothing to shake a stick at, either. He got the job done and moves on. He’ll have to be perfect against Berchelt, but the time is right to take the crack at any rate.
Edgar Berlanga TKO-1 Eric Moon
Berlanga is now 14-for-14 with first round stoppages. Eric Moon lasted 62 seconds here before two right hands crumbled him, left his eye red, and had him rolling around on the canvas in pain.
Berlanga, a 23-year-old Puerto Rican New Yorker and super middleweight prospect, has the look of the real deal. You don’t have to fully buy into tonight’s ESPN overdrive hype about him, but this is really not a guy who just goes out there recklessly bombing and overwhelms tentative opponents. He hits hard, full stop. He sets his shots up and the knockouts come to him, and Tim Bradley praised how his feet set up his power. He’s got some technical skills.
Granted, there’s a long road ahead. The competition will get a lot better than Moon (11-3, 6 KO), and a lot better than the other guys he’s faced so far. But it’s fun to get excited about young fighters, so get excited about Berlanga (14-0, 14 KO). The worst he can do is let you down if his chin doesn’t prove out or he can’t handle better opponents, and so what? He wouldn’t be the first or 20th boxer to do that for you, probably.
Berlanga notably did push-ups after the fight, which he explained to Bernardo Osuna was a directive from his trainer.
“I didn’t throw the left hook,” he said. “He said I was using the jab for this fight, but I didn’t come back with the left hook, and he wanted me to throw the left hook, so I had to do push-ups again.”
Berlanga said he’s not rushing to a world title or anything, and knows there’s still room to improve and keep working.
“I’m looking forward to a title, but I still wanna grow,” he said. “I still wanna get the rounds in, I still wanna build myself. I’m still a young lion in the sport. There’s a lot of killers at 168 that I gotta get prepared for.”
Kim Clavel UD-8 Natalie Gonzalez
Pretty ho-hum fight, in all honesty. Clavel, from Montreal, was making her U.S. debut after becoming a top ESPN human interest story. I keep saying that and I don’t really mean disrespect, but honestly, how many women’s 108-pound fighters get ESPN spots even in a pandemic otherwise?
Clavel (12-0, 2 KO) performed nicely, sweeping the cards at 80-72 x3 here against Gonzalez (6-1, 1 KO), who was just sorely outclassed by the Canadian. Clavel is becoming a contender at 108 — already is, really, being fair, and she has a solid looking skill set that could make her a title threat for sure.
Elvis Rodriguez TKO-2 Dennis Okoth
Okoth (4-4-1, 2 KO) is a 26-year-old from Kenya, but he’s fought all his bouts in the United States except for his first. He’s not much, a club fighter, but the left hand that Rodriguez (8-0-1, 8 KO) finished with here is another point in his favor on the eye test.
HE'S DONE IT AGAIN— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) July 22, 2020
Cue the guitar ...
8 pro wins, 8 KOs, and Elvis Rodriguez just scored his latest finish by flooring Dennis Okoth with a thunderous left.#ValdezVelez | LIVE on ESPN | #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/Q3lgRINf6F
The 24-year-old southpaw “Dominican Kid” provided one of the few proper GOOMS we’ve had on the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Summer Series Live from The Bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America, and Freddie Roach loves the young fighter. I’m starting to look forward to seeing him, too. This is a 140-pound prospect to be watching.
Isaac Dogboe TKO-8 Chris Avalos
Kind of a mixed bag here for Dogboe, the 25-year-old former junior featherweight titleholder, now fighting at featherweight after back-to-back losses to Emanuel Navarrete, taking a bad beating in the rematch. Dogboe is still young, but at 5’4” with a short reach, he’s really small for a featherweight, and he doesn’t have the speed or big time slickness that could potentially make up for that.
Dogboe (21-2, 15 KO) is now working with trainer Barry Hunter, which is a smart move, but realistically he’s always going to take shots in fights, and that’ll make for some more fun nights, probably, but he just seems really vulnerable at 126 to me; I think this is a real uphill climb for him.
Avalos (27-8, 20 KO) had a bit of success early, but the former two-time title challenger (they mentioned this a lot on the TV) is pretty shop-worn at this point, and generally speaking shows only 4-to-6 rounds of gas anymore before he starts to fade. He showed about four this time, as Dogboe dug in with some good body work in that frame, but Avalos remains scrappy and managed to hang around, though you might also argue Dogboe let him off the hook, maybe to get some more work in, feeling comfortable.
Avalos continued to have minor spots of success, and Dogboe was docked a point in the fifth round for a low blow, but eventually Dogboe got him out. The stoppage was questionable but not really something to blow a gasket about; Avalos got caught with a left and then a clean right that staggered him, and Russell Mora stopped it at 2:25 of the eighth and final round.
THAT is how you debut in the Featherweight division. @IsaacDogboe was on point the entire way, and ultimately stoped Chris Avalos in the 8th and final round.#ValdezVelez | LIVE NOW on ESPN pic.twitter.com/bfwbMafmmn— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) July 22, 2020
“We’re still warming up, but I felt great in there today,” Dogboe said post-fight. “I had to listen. I could hear (Hunter’s) voice telling me to take my time, to relax, not force it. Sometimes I was a little bit tense, but once I went with the flow, everything was working off the jab and I felt great.”
Jury’s out on Dogboe at 126 overall. He’s great fun to watch, has tremendous heart, and is very likable, but physically it was something of an upset that he had world title success at 122, and 126 is an even bigger ask. But I’m not writing him off to be competitive, either.