Even if the fight doesn’t pan out, the trip down memory lane in the build was fun for many.
The Mexican legacy near the featherweight limit, give or take a division is rich. Revisiting names like Olivares and Chavez, and rivalries like Barrera-Morales, helped set the table for this Saturday (ESPN, 10 PM EST).
Inevitably, someone will point out the obvious: Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez aren’t Olivares, Chavez, Barrera, or Morales. They don’t have to be.
Once upon a time, those men weren’t either. The moments that moved them into legendary heights were forged with opponents who brought out the best in them over time. We don’t know who anyone was until the full picture is in view.
Berchelt-Valdez looks like the kind of clash that will go a long way in coloring the career portrait each man will leave behind. For now, it’s just a damn good fight at Jr. lightweight with an Olympian challenging a titlist who made his way through club shows to the top.
It doesn’t need to be any more than that.
But it might be.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Current Titles: WBC Super Featherweight (2017-Present, 6 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 130 lbs.
Hails from: Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
Record: 37-1, 33 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #1 (Ring, ESPN, BoxRec), #2 (TBRB, Boxing News)
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 6 KO
Last Five Opponents: 170-34-11 (.816)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Francisco Vargas KO11, RTD6; Takashi Miura UD12; Miguel Roman TKO9
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Cristobal Cruz TKO5
Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2016-19, 6 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 130 lbs.
Hails from: Nogales, Sonora, Mexico
Record: 28-0, 22 KO
Press Rankings: #2 (BoxRec), #8 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 109-8-3 (.921)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Evgeny Gradovich TKO4; Scott Quigg UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
The Case for Berchelt: Since suffering a stunning first round loss in 2014, Berchelt has won sixteen and never seemed to be as threatened again. He is effective at battering opponents with long rights and lefts and holds an advantage in reach on most of the top of his class. It’s an edge he will have over Valdez by several inches, along with a couple inches of height over his shorter foe. Berchelt can also compete capably inside though against Valdez short range amplifies the dangers of the contest. Berchelt should avoid reckless pursuit in this fight and let his jab dictate the geometry of the fight. He doesn’t have to be lured into all-out war though he likes to let his hands go. Valdez can be deliberate at times and it will allow Berchelt chances to pick away and break down Valdez. The more frenetic the action, the more likely Berchelt is caught with a hook he doesn’t see coming.
The Case for Valdez: On the way up, Valdez looked like the latest example of the Top Rank matchmaking machine in action. He was moved well, developed succinctly with opportunities to build interest with a fan friendly style. As the matches got tougher, and more experienced, one could question whether Valdez could be too fan friendly for his own good. Valdez has shown he can come off the floor to win multiple times, and battled through a broken jaw against a Scott Quigg who came in heavy and brought everything he had in a physical affair. He wins with an excellent left hook, to the head and body, and an underrated but educated straight right. Valdez may have a slight edge in quickness and will need to use it to counter when Berchelt comes forward. Berchelt gets caught with counter hooks and can sometimes leave his chin exposed as he steps into his shots. Valdez will have to be more defensively responsible than has been the case in the past to stay with Berchelt. From there, it’s a matter of timing beating length for him to have his best chance to win.
The Pick: If Valdez is going to be the star some thought he would be early in his career, this is his night to make that happen. Both men enter fresh with some good working rounds in 2020 and looked in peak form on the scales. With offensive mindsets engaged, it’s going to be hard for this fight to miss. The question may be whose defensive liabilities are more likely to decide the fight. In this case, it may be Berchelt’s. His tendency to leave his chin exposed in exchanges means twelve rounds of not getting caught by the sort of hook Valdez is going to be trying to set up all night. Valdez will take his lumps but ultimately the pick here is the mild upset with Valdez putting Berchelt away in a late stoppage.
Rold Picks 2021: 5-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com