On Saturday, Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs) defends his WBC super-featherweight title against former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs).
Berchelt won the WBC title with a stoppage win over Francisco Vargas in 2017 and has defended it six times, stopping all but one opponent. As the longest super-featherweight reigning champion, he’s established as one of the top fighters in the division. Valdez was an amateur standout who represented Mexico twice in the Olympics and was a bronze medalist at the 2009 world championships. In the pros he reigned as the WBO featherweight champion for three years, though the belt was vacant when he won it and he took on some relatively weak challengers. He moved up to super-featherweight after six defenses and struggled against Adam Lopez. Lopez sent him down and was saved from a tough fight by a ridiculously early stoppage in the 7th round.
The fight should be a good one, with both fighters doing their best work on the inside and possessing very good left hooks. Berchelt is big for the weight class, one of its bigger punchers and has an excellent chin. He’s not the best technician around and that might be something to be exploited by a slick boxer but his chin and physicality has so far allowed him to get inside even on fighters that had success with that approach. Valdez has shown no inclination for that type of fight anyway and will likely meet him on the inside. He should give him some work there but I expect him to succumb to the gap in power and size somewhere in the middle to late rounds.
In the co-main event, 20-year-old prospect Gabriel Flores Jr (19-0, 6 KOs) takes on gatekeeper Jayson Velez (29-7-1, 21 KOs). Flores is an outside fighter with quick hands and fluid combos. However, he’s not particularly efficient with his punches. He punches into his opponents guard a lot and rely on volume and athleticism to bank rounds. That should be enough to get him past the aging Velez, but combined with his lack of power, these issues might prevent him from reaching the highest levels of the sport.
The most notable bout on the undercard involves Olympic silver medalist Esquiva Falcao (27-0, 19 KOs), facing two time title challenger Artur Akarov (20-3, 9 KOs) at middleweight. Hopefully a win here sets Falcao up for bigger fights. He’s been a pro for seven years without facing anyone really noteworthy for someone of his amateur pedigree and at 31 the clock is ticking on his prime.
Berchelt vs Valdez airs on ESPN and ESPN+ on Saturday, February 20th at 10:00pm ET / 7:00pm PT. The preliminary card airs on ESPN+ at 6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT.