IBHOF inductee Graham Houston weighs up Saturday night’s intriguing all-Mexican battle between WBC super-featherweight king Miguel Berchelt and unbeaten rival Oscar Valdez.
With a huge slate of fights on the betting board for the weekend, the fight that stands out is the Mexican civil war between 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt and undefeated former featherweight champion and two-time Mexico Olympic representative Oscar Valdez.
Trained by Canelo’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, Valdez is 30 and he’s won two bouts since moving up to 130 pounds. Valdez is an excellent boxer and he’s tough and, of course, valiant — he fought with a broken jaw from the sixth round to defeat the heavier Scott Quigg. (Quigg came into the ring weighing 142 pounds for a bout made at 126.) Valdez’ record is 28-0 (22 KOs).
Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) — I’m counting a KO win that is listed as NC by BoxRec — has overpowered opponent after opponent with a fierce onslaught. Aged 29, Berchelt seems to be at the top of his form. He throws heavy, educated hooks, right hands and uppercuts and he’s strong to the body. But Berchelt showed he can move and box if the occasion demands when outscoring dangerous southpaw Takashi Miura.
Although Berchelt lost by one-round stoppage in 2014, in his only defeat, it really seems to have been one of those situations where a fighter is overconfident and makes a careless mistake. Berchelt looked as if he was on the way to overwhelming a hard-hitting Colombian named Luis Eduardo Florez when he started to throw a left hook and Florez got in first with a left hook of his own, dropping Berchelt heavily. Although Berchelt beat the count his legs had gone and the referee waved the finish. It was a lesson learned.
Once Berchelt gets into his groove and lets the punches fly he is exceptionally difficult to hold off. However, Valdez can box and he can punch. He has demonstrated that he can get off the canvas to win. Genesis Servania dropped him with a right hand in the fourth round but Valdez rallied to drop the Filipino with a left hook in the next round and went on to win a unanimous decision. Adam Lopez dropped Valdez with a left hook in the second round and although Valdez came back to win in the seventh round there was some vulnerability there. Valdez had a weight advantage over a less-experienced opponent and he didn’t really dominate Lopez although he finished the fight impressively enough, knocking Lopez down with a left hook in the seventh round. The referee’s intervention seemed a tad premature but there were no complaints from Lopez.
In his last fight, Valdez struggled in the early rounds against Jayson Velez but took command after dropping his opponent in the fifth and went on to wear down the Puerto Rican boxer before stopping him in the 10th and last round.
So, Valdez has boxed twice at 130 pounds and should now be settled into the new weight class. But Berchelt looks the naturally bigger, stronger fighter. Valdez is going to have to box an extremely disciplined, high-alert fight if he is to come through with a win. He needs to use the jab, to box, move, and seek to land the sort of punches that will get Berchelt to show some respect.
While Berchelt is the more seasoned professional, Valdez had a deep amateur background, boxing in the Beijing and London Olympics and winning a bronze medal in the 2009 world championships, losing to Vasyl Lomachenko in the semi-finals.
But while Valdez is a well-schooled boxer he has never met anyone who brings relentless pressure in the manner of Berchelt. Eddy Reynoso is an excellent trainer and my guess is that he will have Valdez looking to stick to the basics, at least in the early rounds. I don’t think it will be good for Valdez to get into a firefight too soon. But how long can it be before Valdez simply has to stand and fight, just to keep Berchelt off him?
Still, Berchelt looked a bit sluggish in his last fight, a non-title TKO win over a trial horse. He didn’t exactly look like a machine of destruction. However, Berchelt weighed 135 and he was probably unmotivated and just looking to get some rounds in.
On Saturday, both Berchelt and Valdez are likely to be at their absolute best. This is a much-anticipated contest and one has to hope that it will live up to expectations. I think that Berchelt is likely to be just too strong for Valdez but I don’t visualise a blowout. I think Valdez can hang in there and make a fight of it. I’m not sure if the fight will go all the way to the final bell, but I don’t see a sudden ending.
Berchelt is a whopping 1/4 favourite. That seems like a high number for what should be a fiercely competitive contest. Berchelt as ever looked ripped at Friday’s weigh-in but as soon as he stepped off the scale he partook of canned fruit as refreshment. By the time the two men get in the ring, Berchelt should be much the bigger man. But Valdez looked stronger on the scale than I can remember seeing him, somehow a little thicker in the body.
This has the feel of a fight that won’t quite make it to the final bell but the price on the fight not going the distance is quite high at 2/5 (-250). Some outlets have the over/under listed at 9.5 rounds, others have 8.5. I think the “over 8.5” could be worth a stab at roughly even money 10/11 (-110). Valdez has the look of a man who is prepared to give absolutely everything to win the fight. I think he has enough “on” his punches to keep Berchelt from walking right through him. The over 9.5 rounds at +110 gives a better price but with the over 8.5 you have one round less to worry about.
Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.