Oscar Valdez put together the performance of a lifetime Saturday night as he devastated Miguel Berchelt with a vicious left hook in the 10th round and scored what will be acknowledged as a front-runner for Knockout of the Year.
The undefeated Valdez entered the fight as the underdog despite being a former WBO featherweight champion. Oddsmakers thought he was biting off more than he could chew by moving up in weight to challenge Berchelt for his WBC super featherweight title.
Valdez silenced his skeptics in as violent a fashion as you will ever see inside a boxing ring.
The world will be talking about the hook that caused a frightening scene as Berchelt’s body collapsed to the canvas, but the fight was far more than a single punch. Valdez was absolutely brilliant throughout as he paired a steady diet of jabs and left hooks with stellar movement and speed.
The bout was supposed to be competitive on paper, but it was far from that. No one should doubt Valdez again after his phenomenal performance.
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong,” Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) said. “I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
After three competitive rounds, Berchelt (37-2) realized that he needed to close the distance with aggression. Valdez recognized that the bigger fighter was going to open up and eventually caught Berchelt with a left hook that hurt him badly.
Somehow, Berchelt managed to make it out of the round with only being knocked down once. But Valdez had just put on a frightening display of punishment that had Berchelt careening around the ring. The knockdown came when Berchelt needed the ropes to hold him up late in the round.
From that point, it was all Valdez. Outside of the fifth and sixth rounds, when he rested to refill his energy bar, the 30-year-old cranked up the output and scored repeatedly with the left hook. Berchelt showed tremendous heart, but it was evident that he had nothing for Valdez on this night.
As the ninth round came to a close and after Valdez had scored yet another knockdown with an uppercut combination, the biggest question became: Should Berchelt’s corner continue sending their charge out to fight?
The answer was a resounding “No.” But if Berchelt’s corner wasn’t going to end the fight, then Valdez would do it for them.
As Berchelt continued to press forward, Valdez used his legs to escape trouble. Then it all came to a sudden halt in the final second of the round; after a wild swing from Berchelt, Valdez stepped back, loaded up and unleashed a left that caught the 29-year-old Mexican flush.
Berchelt collapsed to the canvas in a frightening manner. Valdez had finished the job and proved his doubters wrong.
The victory makes Valdez a player in a 130-pound division that also features WBA champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Shakur Stevenson and WBO champion Jamel Herring.
And if any of them want a piece of Valdez, then he’s more than ready.
“I want to take this belt home, and I’m happy for that,” he said. “Any champion out there . . . I heard Shakur Stevenson wants to fight. Let’s do it. I just want to keep on fighting and give the fans what they want.”