In true ‘Mexican style’ Californian-based Oscar Valdez bombed out compatriot Miguel Berchelt to emphatically win the WBC world super-featherweight (130lb, 9st 4lb) title in the MGM Bubble, Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The nature and manner of the victory was devastating with heavy favorite Berchelt flattened face-first on the canvas after a left hook detonated on his head seconds from the end of the tenth round. Going in; a poll of twenty experts conducted by The Ring magazine had Berchelt taking eighteen of the votes. Berchelt (37-2, 33 KO’s) was making the seventh defence of his title and considered one of the more dominant champions in the sport.
The youthful, 30 year old Valdez (29-0, 23 KO’s), showed slick and effective boxing skills to take the early rounds as Berchelt seemed noticeably slower and stiff legged. About two minutes into the fourth Valdez landed a perfect left hook high on the champion that would set the scene for the fight.
Berchelt was troubled again seconds later, taking a standing count, and never fully recovered from thereon. Had it not been a world title with an elite champion in trouble and, between two Mexican warriors, the referee Russell Mora could have easily stopped the fight there and then. Berchelt barely survived the round staggering to his corner like a bar room drunk.
The ex-champion managed to just about gather himself for the fifth, but despite having some good moments, was shaken every time Valdez landed a solid blow, in particular with the left hand. The inevitable conclusion would come from this punch after 2:59 of the tenth.
On the stoppage it took some time before Berchelt had partially recovered and was taken to the safety of his corner and then further observation in hospital.
Valdez succeeded in winning his second ‘world’ title having been former WBO champ at featherweight. In the post fight interview he made reference to the doubters going in. “(There’s) nothing better in life than proving people wrong”.
This was yet another night in the current pandemic era when the bookmakers odds were turned upside down and, Valdez on this occasion, turned in an Oscar winning performance. He will now look to unification opportunities in the 130lb division.
A gamble too soon
For over two years Josh Kelly and his team had been confident of the result should he finally face David Avenesyan for the latter’s European welterweight (147lb, 10st 7lb) title. After repeated failures to hold the fight the answer was finally provided at the SSE Wembley Arena, London on Saturday.
On an excellent Matchroom promotion televised live on Sky Sports, the experienced Avenesyan took the fight to the younger challenger and effectively showed him what championship level in the pros was all about. The champion, a former WBA world ‘interim’ title holder, showed at 32 years old, the value of experience in the paid ranks. The Russian, of Armenian descent, and currently based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, England stopped Kelly after 2:15 of the sixth round.
The 26 year old Kelly (10-1-1, 6 KO’s), a 2016 Olympian and considered one of the brightest talents in British boxing, looked the part for the opening rounds showing slick boxing ability and buzzing his opponent in the second round from a big left hook. However, Avenesyan’s pressure was almost suffocating as he kept forcing the pace and landing vicious hooks high on Kelly’s head and continually roughing him up.
Kelly from Sunderland, NE England was troubled by a cut on the back of his head from the second round and blood oozed out for the duration of the fight. An unintentional clash of heads in the fourth resulted in further damage with a cut opening over his right eye.
As the fight progressed the Russian was gaining more success applying relentless pressure. After catching Kelly high on the head in the sixth the challenger was forced to touch down and, never fully recovering, the towel was thrown in by his corner. Referee Victor Loughran accepted the retirement instantly.
Kelly is now left to re-assess his career moving forwards. This will be a valuable lesson, and his corner led by Adam Booth, did him excellent service pulling him out when they did. His talent is unmistakable and he just needs to add that professional experience and grit to come again.
The likeable Avenesyan (27-3-1, 15 KO’s) was ecstatic post-fight. In heavily accented English coupled with Russian/Armenian he said “I wait(ed) a long time for this fight…I’m very happy”, continuing “Today (was) a good day, today (was) my night”. He went on to dedicate his win to the struggle for independence in Armenia and now goes for potentially bigger fights in this stacked weight division.
Finally, Matchroom released news that the eagerly anticipated rematch between world ranked heavyweights Alexander Povekin and Dillian Whyte will now take place on Saturday 27th March in Gibraltar, a UK territory off southern Spain. This will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK. Further updates and previews to follow.