Oscar Valdez became the first of Jayson Velez’s 37 pro opponents to knock him out Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
A disciplined, tactical Valdez boxed well, but he also dropped Velez once in the fifth round and twice in the 10th before referee Tony Weeks halted their scheduled 10-round junior lightweight fight with 37 seconds left in it. Puerto Rico’s Velez (29-7-1, 21 KOs) had lost six decisions before Mexico’s Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) beat him by technical knockout in a main event ESPN televised from MGM Grand Conference Center.
Two judges – Patricia Morse Jarman (89-80) and Steve Weisfeld (88-81) – had Valdez way ahead entering the 10th round. Judge Dave Moretti had Valdez up by only one point through nine rounds (85-84), and only because Velez had a point deducted for a low blow in the ninth.
Valdez’s victory likely will lead to him facing countryman Miguel Berchelt next in a 12-round fight for Berchelt’s WBC super featherweight title. Bob Arum – whose company, Top Rank, promotes Valdez and co-promotes Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) – told BoxingScene.com before Valdez overcame Velez that he’ll put together a Valdez-Berchelt bout once fans can attend boxing matches in the United States.
“Miguel Berchelt is the fight I want,” Valdez said after stopping Velez. “He has the WBC title at 130 pounds. I want the WBC title. Miguel and I would make for a great fight.”
The 29-year-old Valdez’s second fight at the 130-pound limit wasn’t nearly as difficult for the former WBO featherweight champion as his debut at that weight.
Adam Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs), an 11th-hour replacement for an absurdly overweight Andres Gutierrez, dropped Valdez in the second round of their 10-rounder November 30 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Valdez overcame that trouble to drop and stop Lopez in the seventh round of that fight.
Valdez had no such difficulty with the 32-year-old Velez on Tuesday night.
The beginning of the end came when Valdez hurt Velez with a left hook to Velez’s temple that made Velez stumble with 1:28 to go in the 10th round. A short, left hook then sent Velez to the canvas for the second time in their fight with 59 seconds remaining in the fight.
Velez got up by the time Weeks’ count reached eight, but just a few seconds later Valdez blasted a vulnerable Velez with a right that knocked him down for the third time in their fight. Once Velez fell into the ropes, Weeks waved an end to what had become a completely one-sided fight[KI1] .
“I never stop learning,” Valdez said. “I will go back to the gym and continue to improve. I’m in a great rhythm with my trainer, Eddy Reynoso. Velez was everything I expected, a tough warrior who fought his heart out. I commend him for a great performance and a great fight.”
Weeks deducted a point from Velez 31 seconds into the ninth round for a low blow. With Velez backed into the ropes, Valdez landed a left hook about 1:10 into the ninth round.
Velez regularly pressed the action in the seventh and eighth rounds, but he didn’t land many clean blows because Valdez moved out of his punching range.
With just under a minute to go in the sixth round, Valdez landed a right uppercut and followed it up with a left hook.
A left hook by Valdez made Velez stumble backward and sent him to the seat of his trunks with 17 seconds to go in the fifth round. A stunned Velez answered Weeks’ count at eight.
Valdez couldn’t capitalize on hurting Velez because the bell rang to end the fifth round just as Weeks brought Valdez and Velez together again.
Valdez backed up Velez by landing a right hand with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth round. Earlier in the fourth, Valdez blasted Velez with a left hook to the body before coming up top and catching Velez with another left hook.
Valdez boxed well throughout the third round. He landed a left-right combination toward the end of that round.
Velez knocked Valdez off balance with a counter left hook about 55 seconds into the second round. Valdez landed a short right hand with just under a minute remaining in the second.
Velez’s right hand to the body backed Valdez into the ropes with about 1:20 to go in the opening round. Valdez snapped back Velez’s head with multiple jabs in the final minute of the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.