LAS VEGAS — The 138th WBC super featherweight title fight has a lot to live up to in order to match some of its predecessors. The class has been the home of several of the best fights in modern boxing history.
Cornelius Boza-Edwards stopped Bobby Chacon in the 13th round on May 30, 1981, in a wild slugfest. Manny Pacquiao won a 12-round decision over Juan Manuel Marquez on March 15, 2008, in one of the best bouts in any class in the 21st century.
Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido drew over 12 rounds on June 4, 2016, in a violent, awe-inspiring battle. And Marco Antonio Barrera nipped Erik Morales over 12 in the rubber match of their fantastic trilogy on Nov. 27, 2004.
The 138th WBC super featherweight title bout pits once-beaten champion Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs, 1 no-contest) against unbeaten Oscar Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
Berchelt is a solid favorite at BetMGM, where he is -350. Valdez, the former Mexican Olympian and ex-WBO featherweight champion, is +275.
That’s an attractive number on Valdez, who not only is a highly talented fighter, but has the esteemed Eddy Reynoso in his corner guiding him. That has to be a factor if the fight is as close as many think it will be.
“A lot of people are writing Oscar off and I think that’s a mistake,” Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman said. “It’s a big fight. He’s got fast hands, he’s tough as s*** and he’s highly motivated.”
Valdez will need all of that toughness because Berchelt is bigger, more physical and more heavy-handed. It figures to be a high-contact fight and so the ability to take a punch is going to be a factor.
In many ways, it could be seen as Valdez the boxer versus Berchelt the slugger, but that is short-changing both men. Valdez is an outstanding offensive fighter who is willing to stand in the pocket and go toe-to-toe if necessary. Berchelt is the powerful slugger, but though he lacks elite quickness, he is a master at setting up his opponents and can pick them apart at range.
“This is my opportunity,” Valdez said. “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.”
Berchelt has fought a better level of opposition and is used to the weight class, so he goes into the fight with the advantage. It’s hard, though, to lay -350 on Berchelt when the guy on the other side of the ring is as talented as Valdez.
The most likely scenario as I see it is that Valdez’s quick hands give Berchelt difficulty early in the bout, forcing the champion to adjust. But Berchelt will make that adjustment and come on as the fight hits the midpoint.
It’s conceivable he could stop Valdez down the stretch. At BetMGM, Berchelt is -160 to win by KO/TKO/Technical Decision/DQ, while he’s +333 to win by decision.
I’ll jump all over the latter and lay one unit on Berchelt to win by decision, hopeful of making a profit of $333.
More boxing bets
At BetMGM, Adrien Broner is -800 over Jovanie Santiago. While Santiago is not in Broner’s class, Broner hasn’t fought in two years and is highly unpredictable. I’d lay off this fight because Broner often fights down to his competition and we have no idea what his mental state might be.
One of the most intriguing fights on Saturday is between David Avanesyan and Josh Kelly. Kelly is roughly a 7-5 favorite and I like him to win a decision in a compelling bout.
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