By Sean Jones: Andre Ward was greatly impressed with Oscar Valdez’s performance last Saturday night with him unseating WBC super featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt with what could be the ‘Knockout of the Year.’
Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) took on arguably the biggest fighter in the 130-lb division in 29-year-old Berchelt (37-2, 33 KOs), who looked like a rehydrated welterweight in the last fight in ‘the Bubble’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the 10th round, Valdez knocked Berchelt out completely with a left hook that he timed him with. The reality is, Berchelt was essentially knocked out in the fourth round, as that’s when he was initially hurt by Valdez.
Although Berchelt survived the round, he was never the same afterward. His balance, punch resistance, and legs were gone from the fourth round until the bitter end in the 10th.
Ward was pleased to see how Valdez could mix up his style, going from boxing to slugging and keeping Berchelt off balance. Valdez, 29, used his jab to control Berchelt and keep him from walking him down the way he wanted.
Valdez mixed his style up
“Nobody saw him knocking Berchelt out like that, but we seen this movie before,” said Andre Ward to Fighthype on Valdez’s win over Berchelt. “We seen it. You don’t know if a guy can put it together, but when it happens, ‘I seen this movie before.’
“I’m just happy for Valdez. You got concerns about the size difference; that was real. You wonder what kind of fight Valdez is going to fight. But I never believed he was going to toe the line from the very first round. I didn’t believe that.
“But I think sometimes boxing people make the mistake of believing it’s one or the other. ‘He’s either going to box the whole, or he’s either going to slug.’ It’s like you can actually do both.
“You have to negotiate the difference when to fight and when to box. You didn’t know Valdez was going to do that, and he did it,” said Ward.
It was smart for Valdez to box and slug because he probably wouldn’t have won if he’d chosen to stick with one style only.
Ward hopes Berchelt is OK
“It wasn’t even the rematch. The first fight gets slept on,” Ward said of his two fights against Sergey Kovalev. “We psychologically broke Kovalev down the first time, and we physically broke him down the second time.
“The first fight is really where it’s at. Yeah, there’s a lot of resemblances. He did his own thing; he had his own flavor.
“Berchelt took a lot of punishment, and he could have packed it in. I don’t think people realize.
“Guys, that have been champions for a long time. If you get hurt by a big shot, you’ve got decisions to make that no one is privy to.
“You have conversations with yourself. If you get hurt again, it’s like, ‘Is it worth it?’ You start getting busted up, and now you start feeling embarrassed.
“There’s a lot that goes through your mind, and for him to keep pressing forward to the very end, I have nothing but respect for Miguel Berchelt. I hope he’s OK,” said Ward.
Berchelt was helpless to defend himself after the first quarter of the fight, and the referee should have stepped in and stopped the match.
Either the referee or Berchelt’s corner should have pulled the plug on the bout to save him. Hopefully, Berchelt is OK after this fight.
We won’t know until Berchelt returns to the ring. Even then, we may not know until he faces a quality fighter. It’s time that Berchelt moves up to 135 so that he doesn’t have to drain himself as badly to make weight.
Berchelt had the heart of a champion
“It’s a good storyline, and it’s a part that got him to his ascent, but I seen a lot of dudes from the hood tap out, man,” said Ward in commenting on Berchelt having been poor when he was growing up as a kid.
“So you can forget about your upbringing quick when you get hit with a good shot. He’s [Berchelt] just got the heart of a champion, and he didn’t get his title the easy way.
‘So why would he give it up easy? He had to because that was the only way he was going to win,” said Ward when asked if Valdez ‘went beyond himself’ against Berchelt.
“The only way Oscar Valdez was going to win was to fight the best fight of his career. And the question was, did he have it in him? Can he take it and dish it?” said Ward.
Berchelt’s trainer probably should have pulled him out of the fight by the sixth round, as it was obvious that that point that his punch resistance was gone.
‘El Alacran’ Berchelt was getting beaten up by Valdez badly, and it’s questionable whether he’ll be able to come back from this. I’m not sure what Berchelt’s corner was waiting for.
He couldn’t land his shots, and he was getting hit with punches that staggered him in each round from the fourth.
Valdez’s jab was the key
“The key to this fight is a punch that is underused and not really talked about,” said Ward.
“It’s not the overhand right or the hooks. It’s the stiff jabs that started to bloody the nose of Berchelt and made him think twice.
“I’m sure some of the jabs hurt him. ‘Man, this dude buzzed me with a jab.’ Then all of a sudden, the left hook started to come around, and then the overhand right.
“So it’s the jab, the punch that nobody talks about. Everybody forgets; everybody wants to throw the big shots. It’s the left hand that set up everything that happened tonight for Valdez.
“Listen, man, when Valdez got away from the jab, that’s when Berchelt had his two good rounds.
“When he started to use his jab, you saw Berchelt hesitate; think twice. He started getting stood up straight with the jabs, and then you saw the left hooks come around again later in the fight,” said Ward.
Valdez had to use his jab to keep Berchelt from getting into punching range to land his big shots.
He couldn’t just throw power shots exclusively because Berchelt would have had a chance to get his own big punches off.
Valdez’s movement, jab, and the tying up of Berchelt made it difficult for him to connect with his punches the way he needed to.
Ward giving Shakur the edge
“I’m always going to give the edge to Shakur; I’m always a little biased with that,” said Ward when asked about a fight between Valdez and Shakur Stevenson.
“That’s my little brother, but similar to what Valdez did to Berchelt tonight, it’s on a whole another level with Shakur.
“I’m always going to lean in the favor of a fighter with a deep IQ, and that has a deep repertoire and can do multiple things in the ring because you’re going to need to do multiple things in the ring if you want to be successful for an extended period of time in this sport.
‘Why do you say that?’ Well, anytime a guy does a style change, what style does he go to? They want to box more.
“You never see a boxer say, ‘I want to do a style change,’ and start slugging. No, he did both,” said Ward when told that Tyson Fury did a style change against Deontay Wilder.
“He was smart, but he also got his respect. He went back to boxing and got his respect again. So why is that? We’ve got to ask ourselves that question.
“When a fighter goes to get a new coach, it’s typically, not all the time, ‘I got to do a style change.
“I got to box more.’ When bad things happen, fighters always do what? To boxing.
“That’s for a reason. So imagine if you start out boxing, and you start out learning your craft the right way.
“It’s still going to be tough. You’re still going to fight and get your respect when you need to.
“There’s a reason why that’s the fallback plan. For some fighters like Shakur, that’s his first plan,” said Ward.
If the Valdez-Stevenson fight does occur, it’s probably going to happen in late 2021 or, more likely, early next year.