Viva Valdez: Oscar Valdez delivers knockout win over Miguel Berchelt
SAN DIEGO, Calif., February 20, 2021 – The first highly anticipated boxing event of 2021 didn’t disappoint, but it did deliver a surprise. Oscar Valdez, a Mexican native now living in Southern California (29-0, 23 KOs) put on a brilliant performance blending high-level craft and high-powered punching to stop a brave but outgunned Miguel “El Alacran” (The Scorpion) Berchelt of Mexico (37-2, 33 KOs) with an exclamation point knockout at the end of 10 rounds.
Who expected we’d be describing the fight this way?
Valdez may have been the smaller man in the ring, but he dared to think big. Valdez used nimble footwork, defense, speed, patience, and pinpoint perfect punch selection to pick Berchelt apart, round by round.
Valdez showed no fear of Berchelt’s power, using a smart jab followed by left hooks to slowly drain Berchelt’s strength away. What he might have lacked in body attack, he more than made up for it with a terrific uppercut and pinpoint shots to the head meant to punish.
Valdez did the first serious damage near the end of the fourth round behind the left hook. Berchelt was out on his feet, wobbling but staying up. Valdez had half a round to work with, and he did what he could. He blasted Berchelt back into the ropes. Referee Russell Mora correctly called it a knockdown. Fortunately for Berchelt, the round was over. He was still in bad shape in the fifth round but dug deep into his veteran’s heart to regroup.
Berchelt got through the fifth and caught a second wind briefly in the sixth and seventh rounds. At this point of the fight, Valdez could have become discouraged. Instead, he remained patient. As the seventh round closed, Valdez’s left hook came out to play again. As he went to the corner, trained Eddy Reynoso told Valdez, “I don’t want you to lose your focus.”
Valdez returned to using the lead jab followed by the left hook, moving and turning to keep Berchelt from setting his feet to throw shots. Valdez scored his second knockdown of the fight in the ninth round, this one on a right uppercut. Now even the doubters could visualize what was about to happen. Berchelt once again got off the deck, but he had little left other than heart. Trainer Alfredo Caballero asked, “Do you want me to stop the fight?” Referee Russell Mora leaned in and said, “I can’t let him take excessive punishment.”
Trainer Eddy Reynoso kept Valdez focused on the tactics creating his success so far. He kept pressing, kept looking for the opening. It came at the end of the tenth round, as the pair traded shots. Berchelt threw and missed, leaning forward just as Valdez met him with a left hook. Berchelt hit the canvas hard, face down.
.@oscarvaldez56 HAS DONE IT!!!!!
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 21, 2021
Valdez: ‘I wanted to take this test’
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong,” said Valdez, who said he let the naysayers motivate him. “I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me, boxing announcers doubted me.
“I have a message out to everybody. Don’t let people tell you what you can or can’t do. Always work hard in life, try and do your best. Stay disciplined. Don’t ever let anybody tell you what you cannot do. Prove them wrong,” said Valdez.
Valdez credited his team, especially trainers Eddy and Chepo Reynoso. He said the many delays and the pandemic created a need to stay disciplined and stay focused. But he also believes the timing happened for a reason, preparing him to meet the moment.
“There’s a lot of distractions out. It wasn’t easy with the pandemic. Go for your dreams. Always train hard, do your best. Go for number one.”
Valdez said he believed he could beat Berchelt, and he knew it could be hard. But the risk was worth it.
“I don’t want to be 60, 70, 80 years old and have regrets, or say I wish I’d fought him in my prime. That’s why I wanted to take this test. Everybody who said I wasn’t going to make it, you were a part of me, you helped me work harder to prove everybody wrong.” Valdez said he was especially motivated when all-time Mexican great Julio Caesar Chavez Sr. picked Berchelt to win.
“I hope I inspired the kids the way my idols inspired me. I know it wasn’t a toe to toe fight, but I hope you enjoyed it,” said Valdez.
This fight is a work of art, a masterpiece. It will only improve with age. The knockout is thrilling, and the knockdowns are exciting. Miguel Berchelt’s determination is admirable. Most of all, Oscar Valdez put so many skills on display to admire. It’s a treasure hunt you’ll never get tired of playing.
Valdez said he wants to keep fighting and giving the fans what they want. He may be on a collision course with his Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson. At 30, Valdez is at the lead edge of an ambitious generation of athletes. It’s refreshing to see them refusing to repeat their elders’ mistakes whose legacies have suffered from playing it too safe.
Berchelt was transported to a Las Vegas hospital immediately after the fight. Top Rank Boxing later reported Berchelt was examined and received a CT scan, then released.
Gabriel Flores Jr. gets flashy TKO over Jayson Velez
Junior lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. of California (20-0, 7 KOs) got a statement win by sixth-round TKO over veteran Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico (29-8-1, 21 KOs). The action was fairly even through the first five rounds. Flores Jr. was the busier man and landed more punches, but Velez kept him honest and landing leather at times. In the sixth, Flores Jr. caught Velez with a flashy short left hook at the tail end of a combination of punches, and Velez went down hard. He got up on shaky legs with half the round left, and Flores Jr. moved in to close it down. The left hook to the head found Velez again and dropped him for a second time. Referee Tony Weeks quickly waved off the fight.
“I sent a statement that I’m ready for a world title,” said Flores Jr. He said the fight taught him, “Be patient and actually land the right shot. He didn’t see it coming. Not that it was super powerful, but he didn’t see the shot coming. That’s why I hurt him.”
Flores Jr. said he could have ended the fight even earlier. “It felt good, but I could have done it earlier. I was playing with my food. I was learning on the job. I’m young. No one had upside-down records, I didn’t fight in Mexico at all.” Flores Jr. says he wants the winner of the title fight between Jamal Herring and Carl Frampton. “I want to fight the best, I’m chasing greatness,” said Flores Jr.
Esquiva Falcao of Brazil (28-0, 20 KOs) won a fourth-round TKO after the corner of his opponent Artur Akamov of Russia (20-4, 9 KOs) stopped the fight between rounds. Akamov told his corner he believed his nose was broken. He was willing to continue, but his corner felt his vision was too compromised to continue. The former Olympian Falcao should be ready to step up to tougher competition in the middleweight division.
Elvis Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic (11-0. 10 KOs) went the eight-round distance for the first time against Luis Alberto Veron of Argentina. (18-3-2, 9 KOs) to win by unanimous decision. Scores were 79-73 X 2 and 78-74. Rodriguez got in plenty of work and said he appreciates the experience.
“You learn something from each fight. The experience of going the rounds helped me out. It’s a great experience going a full eight rounds. Back to the gym to work on some things,” said Rodriguez. “I know I needed to let my hands go a little bit more. When I did, I hurt him. He’s never been stopped so I knew he would be a challenge. Back to the gym so I can grow in this sport.”
Flashy 18-year-old prospect Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico (7-0. 5 KOs) also went the distance over six rounds to defeat James Martin of Philadelphia (6-2). Scores were 60-54 on all three cards.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR is based in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow Gayle on Boxing Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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