Miguel Berchelt puts his WBC junior lightweight world title on the line against Oscar Valdez, a former featherweight titlist, in the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN boxing card Saturday night at the MGM Conference Center in Las Vegas (ESPN and ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET, with undercard fights at 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+).
Berchelt (38-1, 34 KO) won the title with an 11th-round KO victory over Francisco Vargas in 2017. Berchelt, 29, of Cancun, Mexico, has defended the belt six times, including a sixth-round TKO in a rematch with Vargas in May 2019.
“Styles make fight, and I believe my style and Oscar’s style will make for a great fight, so we’ll see what happens,” Berchelt said at a news conference on Thursday. “I want to tell my fans not to miss this fight. This is going to be a great fight. I know what it’s taken me to get this title, and I’m sure I will defend this title successfully again.”
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6:45 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN+: Miguel Berchelt vs. Oscar Valdez undercard fights
10 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN and ESPN+: Miguel Berchelt vs. Oscar Valdez, 12 rounds, for Berchelt’s WBC junior lightweight title
Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) won the WBO featherweight title with a second-round victory over Matias Carlos Adrian Rueda in 2017. He defended the belt six times before moving up in weight. Valdez, 30, of Nogales, Mexico, has won his two fights at junior lightweight by stoppage, including a 10th-round TKO of Jayson Velez in July.
“This is my opportunity. I’m not going to go in there and not give it my all,” said Valdez. “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.”
In the co-main event, Gabriel Flores Jr. (19-0, 6 KOs), faces Velez (29-7-1, 21 KOs) in a 10-round junior lightweight bout. Also on the card, hard-hitting junior welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KOs), of Dominican Republic, meets Argentina’s Luis Alberto Veron (18-2-2, 9 KOs) in an eight-round battle.
Stay here for live results and analysis.
Fight in progress: Gabriel Flores Jr. vs. Jayson Velez, 10 rounds, junior lightweightsResults:Falcao stays unbeaten with TKO win over Akavov
Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao maintained his unblemished record with a leisurely fourth-round stoppage of Russian middleweight Artur Akavov.
Akavov’s corner stopped the fight at the conclusion of the fourth, after informing ringside officials of lost vision in the left eye and an apparent broken nose. It was a merciful result, as Akavov (20-4, 9 KOs) had turned into a sitting duck for Falcao’s punches as early as the second round.
Falcao (28-0, 20 KOs) calmly cut off the ring, stuck him on the ropes and peppered him with stinging combinations. Outside of an aggressive opening round, Akavov’s offensive output basically ceased to exist. He did not look comfortable answering Falcao’s punches along the ropes and rarely threw more than one punch at a time.
Falcao mixed his shots well to the body and head. Akavov routinely shook his head as if to suggest the shots weren’t getting through, but it was obvious Falcao was efficiently wearing him down.
An Olympic silver medalist in 2012, Falcao went 2-0 in 2020, fighting exclusively in his native Brazil.
Rodriguez goes the distance for the first time against VeronJunior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez, right, went the distance for the first time ins his pro career in a unanimous decision victory over Luis Alberto Veron. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc. via Getty Images
Junior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez was forced to claim his first-ever win on the scorecards on Saturday, although that might not have been the worst thing for his development.
Punch StatsPunchesRodriguezVeronTotal landed9771Total thrown342348Percent28%20%Jabs landed178Jabs thrown145143Percent12%6%Power landed8063Power thrown197205Percent41%31%– Courtesy of CompuBox
The 25-year-old cruised to an eight-round decision over Luis Alberto Veron via scores of 79-73, 79-73 and 78-74. It is only the first time Rodriguez has gone the distance in his two-year professional career. Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10 KOs), who trains under Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, was patient early against his more experienced opponent. He started to wake up in the fifth and sixth rounds, as he landed hard body shots and a clean right hook. He appeared to hurt Veron (18-3-2, 9 KOs) late in the sixth.
The power difference was visible from the start, and grew more pronounced as the fight progressed. By the final two rounds, Veron’s face showed bruising and swelling under the left eye, and the little zip he did have on his punches early on, faded almost entirely. The Argentinian continued to come forward in the final 10 seconds, though. It was not the most scintillating performance of Rodriguez’s career, but it provided valuable ring time and his unbeaten record remained easily intact.
Veron has suffered all three of his pro losses in his past four fights.
Zayas dominates Martin in one-sided decision winWelterweight blue-chip prospect Xander Zayas, right, scored another victory with a unanimous decision against James Martin, left. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc. via Getty Images
Xander Zayas, one of Top Rank’s most prized prospects, continues to progress nicely as he thoroughly dominated James Martin over six rounds in their welterweight clash.
Zayas (7-0, 5 KOs), of San Juan, Puerto Rico, set the tone early with heavy left hooks to the body, followed by combinations to the head. Martin (6-2, 1 KO), a 23-year-old fighting out of Philadelphia, showed heart in the pocket and fired back with bad intentions, but Zayas’ defensive skills proved to be equally impressive to his offense. He routinely slipped out of harm’s way, and fired back with thudding shots to Martin’s midsection.
The 18-year-old welterweight failed to record a knockout for the first time in four appearances, but that did little to dampen the performance. He strung together a lot of unanswered punches on the ropes near the end of the fourth round and appeared to hurt Martin with a looping overhand right in the fifth, but Martin was never in serious danger of being stopped.
Zayas, who signed with Top Rank at the age of 16, picks up the second win of his career in Las Vegas. This was his first appearance in Top Rank’s bubble, as he fought exclusively in Florida in the second half of 2020.
Martinez finishes Wagner in the first roundMiddleweight prospect Javier Martinez, left, stopped Billy Wagner, right, in the first round. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc. via Getty Images
Middleweight prospect Javier Martinez made quick work of Montana’s Billy Wagner, scoring a blistering TKO stoppage just 1:15 into the first round.
Martinez (3-0, 1 KO), 25, staggered Wagner (3-2, 1 KO), 28, badly with a counter right hand, which was ruled a knockdown after Wagner fell hard into the ropes. The bout was waved off moments later, when Martinez landed another monster right hand and a straight left down the middle. Wagner’s corner actually threw in the towel at the same moment the fight was called by the referee.
Fighting out of Milwaukee, Martinez’s win was his third in nine months.
Rosario stops Villanueva in Round 2Junior welterweight Omar Rosario, left, stopped Uriel Villanueva in Round 2 with a body shot. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc. via Getty Images
Omar Rosario picked up the first knockout of his professional career, as he put Uriel Villanueva down with a left hook to the body at 2:38 of the second round of a scheduled four-round junior welterweight battle.
Rosario, (3-0, 1 KO), who is from Puerto Rico, donned the late Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 on his trunks. He landed a crisp right hand to the head of Villanueva in the first round that might have been the best shot of the frame, but the bigger story was his consistent work to the body. That work paid off in the second round, when he forced Villanueva (1-1) to take a knee twice before the fight was called.
Rosario, 23, turned pro in August 2020.
Still to come
Title fight: Miguel Berchelt vs. Oscar Valdez, 12 rounds, for Berchelt’s WBC junior lightweight title