Oscar Valdez Jr. and Miguel Berchelt will have a lot to live up to when they step into the ring on Saturday at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, with Berchelt’s WBC junior lightweight title on the line (ESPN and ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET).
Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs) is from Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) grew up in Arizona and now trains in San Diego, but he was born 30 years ago in Nogales, in the Sonora state in Mexico. He represented the country of his birth in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
This is Mexico vs. Mexico, another fight in a storied history.
“It’s a rivalry thing, like when [Marco Antonio] Barrera fought [Erik] Morales or when [Juan Manuel] Marquez fought Barrera,” said Oscar Valdez Sr., father of the fighter and a onetime amateur boxer himself. “When it’s Mexico against Mexico, it’s going to be back and forth, a battle to see what fighting is all about.”
National heritage is not the only reason Valdez, a former WBO featherweight champion, wanted a date in the ring with Berchelt. He wants a title, too, and despite having other options on that front — the IBF and WBO straps — Valdez wanted Berchelt, who is No. 1 in ESPN’s junior lightweight rankings.
“We want to fight the best, and we think he’s the best,” Valdez Sr. said. “Guys like JoJo Diaz and Jamel Herring, they’re good fighters, but Berchelt is the best of them. We want to pick a fight with the best fighter. It’s a challenge.”
For his part, Berchelt believes he’s ready to impose the same style that has carried him to the top of the junior lightweight division.
“I’m gonna do my plan, attack and throw my punches, use my jab,” Berchelt told ESPN. “If he wants to come inside, he’s going to find out about my power.”
Size and power are two of the biggest questions for Valdez heading into this fight. Valdez is competing in a weight class 4 pounds heavier than featherweight, where he ruled as recently as 2019. This will be his third bout at junior lightweight, and his father sees that as the gradual disarming of a sometimes difficult foe for a fighter.
“Every fight, it’s a fight against the scale,” Valdez Sr. said. “The biggest problem a fighter often has is making weight, so going up a division helps with that. It means you can spend more of your training energy getting ready for the fight instead of getting ready for the scale. We’ll see how Oscar’s body continues to react to the weight class. But he’s ready.”
Notable title fights between Mexican fighters
Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Marquez 1 in 2007, for the WBC junior featherweight title
Vazquez and Marquez met four times. The first chapter was the bloodiest of all. Vazquez was making his third defense of the belt, but retired after Round 7 due to respiratory problems and a broken nose.
Erik Morales vs. Marco Antonio Barrera 1 in 2000, for the WBC, WBO junior featherweight titles
The first fight of a historic trilogy was a unification fight in the 122-pound division that Morales won by split decision. Morales was knocked down in the 12th round, but prevailed on the scorecards (114-113, 115-112, 113-114). The fight was awarded as fight of the year by The Ring Magazine.
Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Mario Martinez in 1984, for the vacant WBC junior lightweight title
Chavez won his first-ever world title fight when referee John Thomas stopped the fight right after the end of Round 8, with Martinez bleeding from the nose and a cut in his right eye. Chavez successfully defended the title nine times, the most by a Mexican in the division. Chavez also holds the all-time record with 31 wins in title fights.
Carlos Zarate vs. Lupe Pintor in 1979, for the WBA bantamweight title
In a controversial 15-round split decision, Pintor became world champion for the first time. Pintor got knocked down in the fourth round and from the 10th, Zarate started bleeding from his nose and suffered a cut over his right eye. The Ring Magazine, AP and Boxing Illustrated had Zarate winning on their unofficial scorecards.
Chucho Castillo vs. Ruben Olivares 1 in 1970, for the WBA and WBC bantamweight titles
Olivares was making the second defense of his titles when Castillo knocked him down in the third round and won a 15-round unanimous decision. Six months later, Castillo won the rematch by TKO in the 14th round.
In their own words
Berchelt: I’ve been following Oscar since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, since that was an opportunity I wanted for myself. I respect him. We know the quality of the opponent we have in front of us, but I’m here to get the win and [retain] my title. Styles make fights, and I believe my style and Oscar’s style will make for a great fight, so we’ll see what happens.
Valdez: Nothing personal, but I want that belt. It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I was 8 years old, 9 years old. My idols have held it: Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera. They all held this belt, and that is something I’ve wanted to hold since I was a kid. This is my opportunity. This is my opportunity. I’m not going to go in there and not give it my all. I’m going to do whatever it takes. If I have to box, I’ll box. If I have to bang it and brawl it out, then I’m willing to do that, too.
Mexican boxing legends share their predictions
By Salvador Rodriguez
Marco Antonio Barrera: I see a very interesting fight. Berchelt has the advantage because he is a big 130 and Valdez is moving up from 126 pounds — it is complicated. The power is on Berchelt’s side, but Valdez has the technique, the Olympic style, the better corner, the mobility, body punching and moves well side to side to avoid those bombings from the ‘Alacran’ Berchelt. Valdez can take the victory by decision and maybe Berchelt by knockout, but it will be a war between Mexicans that I am already savoring.
Erik “El Terrible” Morales: I think Berchelt has the advantage. I’m going with Berchelt on points.
Juan Manuel Marquez: For me it is hard to pick. It’s going to be a good fight, I think it could even be a draw.
Fernando “Kochulito” Montiel: It’s a 60-40 fight for Berchelt or even 55-45. If Valdez boxes well early in the first rounds he could win by knockout. Valdez is a better boxer, with more boxing repertoire. But Berchelt is a more accomplished fighter. He’s been in tough battles, he gets better by round and when he attacks he does not stop. And if you add that Valdez suffered a fractured jaw (against Scott Quigg), the more the fight advances, the more dangerous Berchelt becomes.
Carlos Zarate: The fight is even, but I pick Berchelt.
Jorge “Travieso” Arce: Berchelt is big and he is going to rehydrate well after the weigh-in. I see Valdez very focused, but he has a weak chin. I don’t think he can last the distance.
Read more expert picks here
By the numbers
23/24: Of his last 24 wins, Berchelt has finished 23 of the fights.
38.9%: Percentage of punches landed by Berchelt in his last eight fights, highest among all fighters tracked by CompuBox. He’s landed 31.5 punches per round, 24.6 power punches per round and 47.4% of power punches thrown in his last eight fights, all second most among all fighters tracked.
2: Olympic Games appearances for Valdez, in 2008 and 2012. Valdez represented Mexico.
8/8: Valdez has won all eight of his fights held in Las Vegas, including his featherweight world title win over Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda in 2016.
4: Number of divisions in which Adrien Broner has won world titles — junior lightweight (130 pounds), lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight (147 pounds). Broner returns to action for the first time since a 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, against Jovanie Santiago.
The full card
Title fight: Miguel Berchelt vs. Oscar Valdez, 12 rounds, for Berchelt’s WBC junior lightweight title
Gabriel Flores Jr. vs. Jayson Velez, 10 rounds, junior lightweights
Esquiva Falcao vs. Artur Akavov, 10 rounds, middleweights
Elvis Rodriguez vs. Luis Alberto Veron, 6 or 8 rounds, junior welterweights
Xander Zayas vs. James Martin, 6 rounds, welterweights
Sonny Conto vs. Waldo Cortes, 4 rounds, heavyweights
Javier Martinez vs. Billy Wagner, 4 rounds, middleweights
Omar Rosario vs. Uriel Villanueva, 4 rounds, welterweights
“The Problem” returns
By Ben Baby
Adrien Broner headlines a card on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, with hopes of securing his first victory since 2017. Jovanie Santiago is just one of the challenges Broner is facing inside the ring, with a significant financial one outside of it.
Broner owes $855,682.03, which is how much he is required to pay to settle a lawsuit, as of an affidavit filed on Jan. 29. That follows a criminal case in which he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and unlawful restraint after he forcibly kissed a woman at a club in 2018. In a court filing submitted on Jan. 29, Wells Fargo said Broner had no funds available, with a large stamp across blank lines.
Broner, who once said his initials stood for About Billions, insists, however, that financial considerations aren’t the driving force behind his ring return.
“Even if I didn’t have these pending cases against me, I’d still be training my ass off and be ready to get back and make a fortune,” Broner told ESPN on Feb. 9. “God gave me a blessing and God gifted me with some great talent, and I’m not going to let it go to waste.” Read more about Broner’s return
The full card
Adrien Broner vs. Jovanie Santiago, 10 rounds, welterweights
Otto Wallin vs. Dominic Breazeale, 12 rounds, heavyweights
Zachary Ochoa vs. Juan Jose Velasco, 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Robert Easter Jr. vs. Ryan Martin, 12 rounds, junior welterweights
Rau’shee Warren vs. Sharone Carter, 10 rounds, bantamweights
Romuel Cruz vs. TBA, 4 rounds, junior featherweights