Top Rank’s “Summer Series” on ESPN came to an end — though there are more summer Top Rank cards to come in late August — with Oscar Valdez becoming the first man to stop rugged veteran Jayson Velez in the main event.
Valdez (28-1, 22 KO) wasn’t perfect tonight, and admitted that himself, but he dropped Velez (29-7-1, 21 KO) in the fifth and 10th rounds, both on left hooks, and finished late in the 10th, 2:23 of the final round, to be exact.
Velez was able to keep his workrate high enough to stay competitive, but Valdez was more efficient and set up his power shots better, even getting clipped now and then. Velez also had a point docked in the ninth round on a low blow. At the time of the stoppage, BLH had it 87-82 on two separate scorecards, both for Valdez.
“I felt a little rusty at first, but I was in shape to go to war, I was capable of that,” Valdez said post-fight. “I thank Eddy (Reynoso) and my teammates in the gym, because we always work hard. In boxing we never stop learning, there’s always something new to learn. I do feel I’m improving in the gym. I’d give myself a seven, I wasn’t all that great. I want to keep on working and become a WBC world titlist.”
WBC titleholder Miguel Berchelt (38-1, 34 KO) is expected to be next for Valdez, a former WBO featherweight titleholder who moved up last year without losing his belt. Berchelt will be favored and is considered the No. 1 man in the division, and Valdez has nothing but respect for the man he expects to face next.
“I’ve got a lot to improve. Berchelt is a great champion, a great warrior, I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” he said. “But I’m hungry to be a world champion again. He has something everybody wants, the WBC world title. That’s definitely the fight I want. That’s the fight the fans want. Two Mexicans inside the ring, there’s always gonna be fireworks.”
This was a performance with highs and not necessarily lows, but certainly some questions. ESPN analysts Tim Bradley Jr and Andre Ward — both former world champions — both gave Valdez mixed reviews for this win, but stopping Velez is nothing to shake a stick at, either. He got the job done and moves on. He’ll have to be perfect against Berchelt, but the time is right to take the crack at any rate.
Edgar Berlanga TKO-1 Eric Moon
Berlanga is now 14-for-14 with first round stoppages. Eric Moon lasted 62 seconds here before two right hands crumbled up, left his eye red, and had him rolling around on the canvas in pain.
Berlanga, a 23-year-old Puerto Rican New Yorker and super middleweight prospect, has the look of the real deal. You don’t have to fully buy into tonight’s ESPN overdrive hype about him, but this is really not a guy who just goes out there recklessly bombing and overwhelms tentative opponents. He hits hard, full stop. He sets his shots up and the knockouts come to him, and Tim Bradley praised how his feet set up his power. He’s got some technical skills.
Granted, there’s a long road ahead. The competition will get a lot better than Moon (11-3, 6 KO), and a lot better than the other guys he’s faced so far. But it’s fun to get excited about young fighters, so get excited about Berlanga (14-0, 14 KO). The worst he can do is let you down if his chin doesn’t prove out or he can’t handle better opponents, and so what? He wouldn’t be the first or 20th boxer to do that for you, probably.
“I didn’t throw the left hook,” he said. “He said I was using the jab for this fight, but I didn’t come back with the left hook, and he wanted me to throw the left hook, so I had to do push-ups again.”
Berlanga said he’s not rushing to a world title or anything, and knows there’s still room to improve and keep working.
“I’m looking forward to a title, but I still wanna grow,” he said. “I still wanna get the rounds in, I still wanna build myself. I’m still a young lion in the sport. There’s a lot of killers at 168 that I gotta get prepared for.”