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Oscar Valdez gives virtuoso performance, stops Miguel Berchelt

05

Sometimes it all comes together in a magic moment on the biggest stage. That’s what happened with Oscar Valdez on Saturday.

Valdez, an underdog against highly regarded Miguel Berchelt, took his fellow Mexican apart before stopping him with a monstrous left hook in the 10th round to take Berchelt’s 130-pound title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) was a respected contender entering the fight – he’s a former featherweight titleholder – but he had looked so-so in his past few fights. Meanwhile, Berchelt (37-2, 33 KOs) was making the seventh defense of his WBC title. All but one of his successful defenses ended inside the distance, a testament to his punching power.

Hence the odds in Berchelt’s favor, around 3½-1 at the opening bell.

The problem for Berchelt is that the best possible version of Valdez showed up on Saturday. He was too quick, too athletic and – surprise, surprise – much too powerful for one of the sport’s most-feared knockout artists.

Valdez opened the fight boxing cautiously, jabbing, throwing power shots here and there, taking his time. Then, about two minutes into Round 4, Valdez hurt Berchelt with a left hook and it was downhill for the then-champion.

Valdez continued to throw – and land – big shots, including another left hook that sent Berchelt into the ropes for the first knockdown in the final seconds of the round.

Berchelt regained his footing by the middle of Round 5  and had his best rounds in six and seven, in which he put heavy pressure on Valdez and landed enough punches to give himself hope of climbing back into the fight.

However, Valdez got back to landing hard shots in Round 8 and then put Berchelt down again in Round 9, courtesy of a right uppercut followed by a left-right-left combination. Berchelt got up and survived but he was struggling.

Then came the end. Valdez was in control of Round 10 when, a split second before the bell rang, Berchelt ran into a perfect left hook and fell flat on his face.

Referee Russell Mora didn’t bother to count, waving off the fight immediately. The official time was 2:59.

Berchelt, who was rolled onto his back by one of his handlers, gave fans some scary moments as he lay motionless but he was able to walk to out of the ring with some help. He was later taken to a hospital.

Oscar Valdez (left) had his way with Miguel Berchelt all night. Mikey Williams / Top Rank Inc. via Getty Images)

For Valdez, it was the performance of his career, a dominating victory over one of the hottest fighters in the world that gave him a coveted championship belt. To say that it was a defining moment for him is an understatement.

He was understandably ecstatic after the fight. And defiant.

“There’s nothing better than proving people wrong,” he said. “I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. They said Miguel Berchelt was going to knock me out.

“I got a message to tell everybody: Don’t let nobody tell you what you can and can’t do. Always work hard and be disciplined in life, try to do your best, and anything is possible.”

Valdez was asked who he wants next but was still in the moment.

“I don’t know,” he said. “… Any champion out there. I heard that Shakur Stevenson wants to fight. Let’s do it. I just want to keep on fighting and give the fans what they want.”

The fans want to witness great fights and great performances, like the one Valdez gave them on Saturday.

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