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Fireworks! Why Miguel Berchelt vs. Oscar Valdez is the must-watch fight of the weekend

Mexico vs. Mexico. Action fighter vs. Action fighter. It doesn’t get much better than this Saturday’s Top Rank Boxing main event.

Miguel Berchelt v Takashi Miura Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Boxing has had a fairly quiet start to 2021 in terms of big fights. This Saturday’s WBC junior lightweight title bout between Mexican punchers Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez is not “big” in the sense of a blockbuster pay-per-view, but it’s a big fight for the division and to date this is the most exciting match on paper.

Berchelt (37-1-1 NC, 33 KOs) is not just a volume puncher but a devastating one. He won the WBC belt back in 2017 against fellow Mexican Francisco Vargas, who’s known for his wars and ability to absorb punishment but was completely broken down on his way to an 11th-round KO defeat. Since outboxing Takashi Miura by decision in his first defense, Berchelt has not come remotely close to needing the judges’ scorecards. In his lone pandemic outing in 2020, Berchelt stopped Eleazer Valenzuela in what was a stay-busy fight — it was a no contest because the Mexico City Boxing Commission didn’t sanction this event and had no commission members present.

That weirdness aside, Berchelt is the consensus #1 130 lbs fighter in the world, with only Gervonta Davis having a solid argument and his resume just doesn’t hold up. Berchelt is an offensive machine with a penchant for stringing together brutal combinations that attack both the head and body. His work in the pocket and on the front foot is so difficult to counter.

Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) recently moved up to junior lightweight from featherweight, where he reigned as the WBO champion from 2016 to 2019. Prior to his switch to trainer Eddy Reynoso, Valdez had a reputation for being an aggressive power-puncher who was eager to go for the knockout even at the expense of his defense. This led to a broken jaw against an overweight but game Scott Quigg, as well as a shock knockdown vs. Genesis Servania before he scored a knockdown in return and won a decision.

Even with Valdez’s attempt to remake himself as a boxer-puncher, it’s not been an easy road and it’s a work in progress at best. Against late replacement Adam Lopez in 2019, Valdez was dropped early and had to rally to get a controversial TKO stoppage when it looked like the ref intervened early. Against former title challenger Jayson Velez, Valdez did score a 10th round TKO to become the first man to stop the rugged Puerto Rican.

This isn’t necessarily best vs. best and indeed Berchelt is a sizable favorite at 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 odds, but these are two world-class competitors and there’s going to be guaranteed action. Valdez is highly unlikely to outbox Berchelt, which means he’s almost obligated to go to war with “The Scorpion.” That is highly likely taking the express lane towards a knockout loss, but it’s also Oscar’s best chance of winning. Berchelt’s one defeat came by first-round TKO against Luis Eduardo Florez in 2014 and Valdez does pack a punch, particularly his left hook. You can say that this is the best opponent has faced in his career, but I don’t think Berchelt has had a serious threat opposite him since his banger with Mickey Roman in 2018, and I’m including the rematch with a shopworn Vargas afterward as not much of a contest.

I’d like to think MMA fans know that the best matchmaking is not always #1 vs. #2 or whatever makes the most sense from a rankings standpoint. Great matchmaking from a consumer’s standpoint encompasses not just elite vs. elite but compelling stylistic matchups. Berchelt averages about 80 punches thrown per round and often goes above 100, and while Valdez does not consistently throw at the same rate as his adversary, he’s more than capable of letting his hands go.

The whole “Mexican warriors” tagline is often overused, but in this instance it’s absolutely warranted. You don’t want to miss this fight. And luckily it should be after the UFC is finished for the night.

Bloody Elbow will have live coverage of Berchelt vs. Valdez starting at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT. The card simulcasts on ESPN and ESPN+ and will lead-off with the co-main event between Jayson Velez and prospect Gabe Flores Jr.

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