Oscar Valdez pulled a solid upset, even with late money coming in on him Friday and Saturday, violently knocking out Miguel Berchelt at the end of the 10th round to win the WBC junior lightweight title.
Valdez didn’t just knock Berchelt out, though, he dominated this fight, boxing near perfectly from start to finish, putting in a clear career-best performance in the biggest fight of his life, becoming a two-division champion in the process.
Judges had Valdez (29-0, 23 KO) up 87-82, 88-81, and 89-80 when he landed a monster KO shot in the 10th round, just before the bell to end the frame. Bad Left Hook had him up 88-81, too.
Here are the highlights, including the finish:
Round 3 underway in The Bubble, and @oscarvaldez56 comes out sharp & effective, just as he was in the fight's first 6 minutes.#BercheltValdez Main Event LIVE NOW on ESPN & ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/osF6vsSau3— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 21, 2021
.@oscarvaldez56 HAS DONE IT!!!!!— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 21, 2021
An explosive left hand at the bell in Round 10 closes a masterful performance, and he is now a 2-time world champion! #BercheltValdez | #AndTheNew | ESPN pic.twitter.com/HFw8eT7Mqm
Berchelt, to be clear, was definitely hurt on the KO, was down a couple of minutes, but did get up to a seated position, was communicating, and was stretchered out and rushed to a hospital.
As for the fight, Valdez just had a perfect plan here, and executed magnificently. He was quicker, sharper, faster — he had an outstandingly great performance in this fight, and he proved a lot of people wrong, no question.
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong. I had a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me,” Valdez said. “They said Miguel Berchelt was gonna knock me out. But I got a message to tell everybody: Don’t let nobody tell you what you can can and can’t do. Always work hard and be disciplined in life. Try to do your best, stay disciplined, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Prove them wrong.”
Valdez credited his team and family with helping him get the win.
“It wasn’t easy training in a pandemic, but try to go for your dreams,” he said. “Always train hard, do your best, try to always be number one. Nothing’s impossible. My team was a big part of this.”
Whether you called the upset or were like the most of us and figured Berchelt (37-2, 33 KO) would take this fight, you can do nothing but deeply respect what Valdez did here. He was, flat out, the better man pretty much all night. He worked with a good, sharp, fast jab, kept Berchelt fully uncomfortable all the way, was slicker and quicker and just the better fighter. Period.
Gabriel Flores Jr TKO-6 Jayson Velez
20-year-old junior lightweight prospect Flores (20-0, 7 KO) isn’t known for his power, but he flashed some here in the sixth round, dropping Velez on a temple shot that had him doing the stanky leg upon getting back to his feet.
The fight was basically over there, but bless Velez (29-8-1, 21 KO), he got up and threw what he had at Flores. Didn’t last much longer, as Flores was happy to bite down and wing shots with the veteran by that point, knowing he could hurt him, and that he was already hurt. A left hook dropped the 32-year-old Velez a second time, and referee Tony Weeks rightly called it off.
"WHO RUN IT?!?!" @G_Squad_Nation aimed to make a statement on the big stage, and the rising star Junior Lightweight did just that. #BercheltValdez | LIVE NOW on ESPN & ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/CGXpLlW3h1— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 21, 2021
Said doing the round-by-round that Flores might not really “wow” people, but this is a really solid win for him, both in just beating a tough veteran and in stopping him. Velez has only been stopped twice, in his last two fights (the other was Oscar Valdez last summer, and he gave Valdez a tough night), and maybe his resistance is cracking some, but this is a nice result for the young guy.
“I sent the statement that I’m ready for a world title,” Flores said. “I hit him and he didn’t know he was getting hit, that’s why he got hurt. Not that I was super powerful, but he didn’t see the shot coming. That’s why I hurt him. I could’ve done it earlier. I was playing with my food. Pops told me I just gotta press it. Nothing was going on those first five rounds, to be honest. I was feeling it out. I should only have felt it out for two rounds.”
Flores doubled down saying he’s ready for a world title, targeting the WBO belt specifically.
“I’m ready for a world title shot,” he said. “I’d love to get the winner of Jamel Herring and Carl Frampton. Each performance I’ll get better and better. I’m chasing greatness.”
- Esquiva Falcao TKO-4 Artur Akavov: Falcao is 31 years old and won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, and talks about doing a title shot on the occasion he says much of anything, but has spent his entire seven-year pro career doing basically nothing of note. Akavov (20-4, 9 KO) challenged for middleweight belts twice, giving Billy Joe Saunders a tough night in 2016 and not giving Demetrius Andrade one in 2019, and he’s by far the best opponent Falcao (28-0, 20 KO) has faced.
This result probably looks more special than it is, though I’m not saying it looks great anyway. It’s a fine win. Falcao was up 39-37 on our unofficial card, looked like he’d probably win, but Akavov’s corner stopped the fight between the fourth and fifth rounds on a broken nose, and it wasn’t a super clear broken nose or anything. Not saying he’s lying, just saying nobody was watching it, like, “Oh, man, that guy’s nose is BUSTED.”
Would be nice if Falcao fought a legitimate contender or something next time out. It’s way past time for him to take his shot.
- Elvis Rodriguez UD-8 Luis Alberto Veron: Valuable fight for Rodriguez, also valuable in considering Rodriguez as a prospect. He’s been a “bubble” favorite for Top Rank especially, as he has delivered highlight reel knockouts and looked really strong, big puncher at 140. But Veron (18-3-2, 9 KO) had never been stopped, and still has not been stopped, going a full eight with Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10 KO) without ever getting in any serious trouble.
Veron had the experience and ring smarts to make Rodriguez think a lot more than normal, but Rodriguez responded well to not being able to bowl a guy over, too. He stayed patient, worked without panicking at any point, and won rounds instead of making big, over-aggressive mistakes. He took what he could get from Veron, didn’t force what wasn’t going to be there. When Veron tired some, Rodriguez landed more, and he worked to get there.
“I think I got a lot of really good experience. Each fight you acquire something different, and for this fight, I think the experience of going the rounds actually helped me out,” Rodriguez said through Bernardo Osuna’s translation. “I needed to let my hands go a little bit more. When I did do that, I was able to hurt him. But I think it was a great experience. He’s never been stopped, I knew it was going to be a challenge.”
- Xander Zayas UD-6 James Martin: Now 18, Zayas (7-0, 5 KO) was signed by Top Rank at 16, debuted at 17, and is a prospect they really like a lot, which I guess the first part makes obvious. After COVID struck, he stayed busy last fall with a couple fights in Florida on All Star Boxing cards, but made his “bubble” debut in Vegas with this one, winning all six rounds against Philly’s Martin (6-2, 0 KO), who never really threatened to actually win the fight, but proved a valuable test. Martin was able to take Zayas past the fourth round for the first time, went the distance with him, gave him some looks. Martin’s a second-generation fighter — his father is Jerry “The Bull” Martin, who went 25-7 from 1976-84 and twice fought for the WBC light heavyweight title — and he showed some skills and craft, giving the young prospect a useful fight.
- Javier Martinez TKO-1 Billy Wagner: I’d seen Wagner (3-2, 1 KO) before, when he fought Matchroom prospect Alexis Espino in 2019. He took some good shots in that fight, scrappy, went a four-round distance. Martinez (3-0, 1 KO) bombed him here, scoring a ruled knockdown and then finishing Wagner with a series of shots against the ropes, forcing the referee to step in. Wagner had his complaints, but nah, he was done, only thing for him to do from there was get hurt. Martinez, a former national amateur standout, is a 25-year-old middleweight prospect still early in his pro run, not a big blue chip kind of guy, but a 6’1” southpaw middleweight with a good base of skills, could be moved along more quickly at some point if his team decide it’s clicked and he’s ready to start stepping up some.
The "First career KO club" has now added two new members in the first two fights of the night.— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 21, 2021
Middleweight Javier Martinez just closed a show of his own. #BercheltValdez | Undercard on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/UAbD8UNnk8
- Omar Rosario KO-2 Uriel Villanueva: Kind of an audition for two young fighters, and Rosario (3-0, 1 KO) definitely looked like the fighter to potentially pick up, as the 23-year-old Puerto Rican blasted out Villanueva (1-1, 0 KO), a 21-year-old Mexican-American, with a pair of body shot knockdowns in the second. Villanueva tried to fight on from the first knockdown, but Rosario went right back to the body and scored the count-out knockout.