This Saturday night, boxing fans will be treated to a fight that many believe will lead to an all-out war. WBC Super Featherweight Champion Miguel Berchelt (37-1) will be defending his title against the undefeated Oscar Valdez (28-0). The fight will take place from the “Bubble” inside the MGM Grand Garden Casino and will be live on ESPN.
When this fight was initially announced, most thought of the wars produced by boxing legends Erik Morales and Marcos Antonio Barrera. For me, I look at this fight more like the legendary night provided by Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo in their first fight. That night, it was two men that didn’t know anything about the word quit and fought with a ton of heart until the dramatic ending. For all we know, we may see something just as dramatic this Saturday night as both of these men are extremely proud Mexican warriors.
Leading up to the fight, there has been some interesting shoulder programming that ESPN & Top Rank have put together called “Blood, Sweat and Tears”. When it comes to this type of storytelling, ESPN is one of the best and they show it with this two-part series. They really bring out how much this fight means to one another and what’s at stake for both men.
When breaking down this fight, I decided to provide some strength and weaknesses from the champion and Jacob Rodriguez did the same for the challenger.
Oscar Valdez will face his most formidable opponent when he fights Miguel Berchelt this Saturday. He is as tough as they come and boasts an impressive 80 percent knockout ratio. The former Olympian and featherweight champion is a superb boxer with power in both hands, notably his left hook. In addition to his excellent boxing skills, Valdez has great footwork. This allows him to position himself and use angles against his opponents.
To beat Berchelt, Valdez is going to have to utilize all the weapons in his arsenal. His first key to victory is stopping Berchelt's forward momentum. Not an easy feat because Valdez gives up two inches in height and five inches in reach. Despite being the shorter fighter, Valdez is the better boxer between the two. He will have to use his boxing skills and footwork to position himself on the inside to take away Berchelt’s reach and height advantages.
Once he gets inside, Valdez needs to attack with a double hook combination; one to the body and one to the head. Berchelt tends to drop his hands to ward off attacks. The left hook to the body will drop his hands away from his face, and then Oscar can come upstairs with another left hook.
Lastly, Valdez needs to look for opportunities to counter-punch. The champion will be looking to make this into a brawl. There will be times during rounds when Berchelt will attack. The champion has a terrible habit of not bringing his hands back fast enough to protect himself. Valdez needs to be ready to strike over Berchelt’s lazy jabs and straight rights.
Valdez has one major flaw he hasn't been able to correct or won't correct. He has poor ring generalship, often abandons his boxing skills, and is easily bullied into a brawl. This fighting style has led him to get knocked down on more than one occasion. He even suffered a broken jaw during his fight against Scott Quigg. Although Oscar beat Quigg, he could’ve easily won using his boxing skills and possibly avoided the injury. If he gets into a brawl with Berchelt, he can fall victim to a devastating knockout.
The high caliber of skills and tenacity between these two fighters make it tough to predict who will win the fight. Given the high percentage of knockouts shared between the two combatants and the pride of who will be Mexico’s standing warrior at stake, I believe this fight will not go the distance. I am going to cut against the grain of popular opinion and pick Valdez to win this fight. I think that he will break down Berchelt’s body and use his natural toughness to whether the heated exchanges. He will also capitalize on the champ’s mistakes and win this fight by way of knockout in the championship rounds.
The WBC champ is a big super featherweight and part of his game is being intimidating. I’ve seen Berchelt a few times when he is not in training camp and sometimes, I wonder how he is able to squeeze down to 130 lbs. He has this big frame for that weight class and it often shows when he takes off his robe just before the start of the first round. Berchelt isn’t this amazing fighter who does things perfectly. On the contrary, he is very flawed but makes it up with power punching and his aggressive fighting style.
Aside from his size advantage on most of his opponents, it’s the punching power that comes along with it that separates him from others. Along with that, he throws a ton of combinations, which makes it extremely difficult to defend if you’re a smaller fighter. In this fight, Berchelt will be the bigger man and he will need to use that size to smother the smaller Valdez. Lastly, he has the ability to make the ring “smaller.” which forces his opponents into a fire fight.
The one thing we haven’t seen recently is a fighter bringing it to Berchelt and making him step backwards. I don’t think Berchelt can be as effective moving backwards as he is when moving forward. This is an area where he can be exposed and possibly put in a position of vulnerability. Also, the champion tends to throw wide hooks, which leaves him open for the straight right hand down the middle or an uppercut. If Valdez does any of the two or both, it could result in a bad night for Berchelt.
I can see this fight starting off a little slow for Berchelt while Valdez sees early success. Then as the rounds go by and Berchelt feels Valdez’ power, he will start to walk Valdez down. This will be a thriller but, in the end, Berchelt will be too strong and will stop Valdez in the later rounds.
My Three Cents:
It’s been a while since the promotion of a fight matches the fight itself on a championship level. Some say it’s going to be a tactical fight while others predict a war. As for me, this quote sums up what I think we will see on Saturday night:
“Tonight, we dine in hell!” – King Leonidas from the 2006 blockbuster film “300”.
Tune into ESPN on Saturday night and possibly witness a fight of the year candidate.