Under the bright lights of Las Vegas, many expected an all-out war between Oscar Valdez and Miguel Berchelt. Two of Mexico’s notorious warriors faced off to determine who the top fighter was in the super-featherweight division. In the end, Valdez proved a lot of bookmakers wrong by decimating the then-WBC super-featherweight champion in Berchelt.
Following two knockdowns, as well as a plethora of devastating jabs and hooks, Valdez landed one of the most vicious hooks you will ever see in a boxing ring. It might have already won Knockout of the Year, and it is only February.
CompuBox had Valdez landing 149 shots compared to Berchelt’s 99. The win secures Valdez, a former WBO featherweight champion, as one of the top fighters in the world today. He needed a perfect win to cement his status in the division.
As far as what is next for him, Valdez has options. He could face WBA champion Gervonta Davis or WBO champion Jamel Herring. The latter is busy preparing for Carl Frampton, and Davis may be working on a Ryan Garcia fight. Valdez could also face Leo Santa Cruz, Joseph Diaz, or Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov. Valdez, however, already has someone in mind, and that’s someone who was sitting ringside during his fight.
“There’s nothing better in life than proving people wrong. I have a list of people who doubted me,” Valdez stated after the fight. “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.
“I want to take this belt home, and I’m happy for that. 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.”
Stevenson, the former WBO featherweight champion, vacated his belt to move to the super-featherweight division. The 23-year old fought twice in 2020, beating Felix Caraballo and Toka Khan Clary. The latter was his debut in the division, and it ended up main eventing a card meant for Valdez v. Berchelt before Berchelt tested positive for COVID-19. Stevenson is technically the WBO mandatory challenger and could face the winner of Herring-Frampton.
As far as how he feels about the callout, the Olympic medalist in Stevenson believes that is the only fight to make in the division.
While it may be smart for Stevenson to take on another fighter within the super-featherweight division, Top Rank is looking to strike while the iron is hot.
“In about a week, I’ll check in with the Berchelt team,” Bob Arum told Bad Left Hook. “But the one that I think is really big, the biggest fight after Tyson Fury against Anthony Joshua, is Valdez against Shakur Stevenson. Before (Berchelt-Valdez), I would have told you that Shakur is favored to win. But now, after that fight, I’m not saying that. I’m not going against Valdez.”
Both fighters are power punchers; Stevenson has won 53% of his fights via knockout while Valdez has won 79% of his bouts via KO. Valdez has proven he can take damage, beating Scott Quigg in 2018 even after suffering a broken jaw in the middle of the fight. Stevenson has yet to be tested as he has managed to mow down opponents whenever he gets the opportunity to strike. Valdez could end up being the one fight Stevenson needs to show what he can do under pressure.
The growth of both fighters at this point is something to marvel at. Stevenson is trained by Kay Koroma, who also works with Jarrett Hurd and Mikaela Mayer. Valdez now trains with Eddy Reynoso, who famously works with Canelo Alvarez, Ryan Garcia, and Andy Ruiz. Based on recent performances, the results from working with these trainers have been noticeable.
In an age where money fights have taken over, boxing has managed to make several of those happen. Valdez v. Stevenson is a bout that, if promoted correctly, could end up being one to remember. Power and history would be in play, factors within a story that anyone can get behind.