Junior lightweights Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez are saying the right things and showing respect before their championship bout, but there’s history.
WBC junior lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt and former featherweight champion Oscar Valdez fight on Saturday, Feb. 20, but there might be more to their rivalry than meets the eye.
Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) is the former WBO featherweight champion. His undefeated record and 78 percent knockout rating almost always have him slated as the favorite, but that’s not true against Berchelt.
According to Oddsshark.com, Valdez is listed as a 3-1 underdog by most oddsmakers. It’s a position that he’s not used to. Valdez isn’t showing any outward frustration at being doubted, but some of the things he said show that he’s eager to prove those sentiments incorrect.
“At the end of the day, they’re just words, other people’s opinions,” said Valdez during a fight week press conference. “They don’t know what I go through in the gym. They don’t know how I wake up early in the morning and work hard. They don’t see the extra hours I put in the gym.”
As good as Valdez’s numbers are, Berchelt’s are better in some ways. Berchelt has one loss coming in 2014, but he has grown lightyears as a boxer since then, defeating big names like Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura, to name a few.
Those are impressive accomplishments to most, but not Valdez.
“I think Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura have one, single style,” Valdez told FanSided on the call. “They can come forward and look for the knockout.”
Valdez did praise their power, but he believes he’s an evolved boxer compared to them.
Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez both have a hidden motivation driving them to best the other
“I know with all these fights that I’ve had, I have not shown that I’m a technical, smart fighter who can also box,” said Valdez. “But that’s something I do have. I haven’t shown it, but that’s why I keep mentioning this fight. The completion is going to bring the better fighter that I have in me.”
Valdez insists he has the technical skills to bring down Berchelt. Valdez and Berchelt are both Mexican boxers who came up in the amateur system at the same time. Valdez was a bigger star than Berchelt then, but things have changed.
Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs) is the number one rated junior lightweight in the world by Boxrec.com, while Valdez is the newcomer to the division who has shown vulnerabilities at times. You get the sense that Valdez is trying to take away Berchelt’s thunder.
It used to be the other way around. As amateurs, Berchelt started boxing later as a teen but won several Mexican national titles. He and Valdez were in the featherweight division and never fought, but Valdez was the star.
Valdez took gold at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships and represented Mexico at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Valdez got the bulk of the nationwide accolades, and Berchelt was overlooked to a degree.
Is it too farfetched to think that Berchelt has harbored animosity towards Valdez because he received all the attention and admiration all those years ago? His words give credence to that assumption.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Berchelt told FanSided through an interpreter during the media call. “If God decided it was Oscar’s time to go to the Olympics, so be it. I believe everyone gets a rematch or revenge. I feel that my revenge is going to be this Saturday.”
Berchelt used the word “revenge” when characterizing his feelings about Valdez during their amateur days. To seek vengeance, you have to feel wronged. Berchelt’s words demonstrate hostility or even jealousy over Valdez’s past stature.
Then again, Valdez appears to be trying to convince the world that he’s better than the favorite Berchelt. Both men may have a secret vendetta which usually results in a war in the ring.
Miguel Berchelt defends his WBC junior lightweight title against Oscar Valdez on Saturday, Feb. 20, on ESPN and ESPN+. Main event coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET. Undecards will air on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET.