By: Hans Themistode
Miguel Berchelt had a grand view of the 130-pound landscape. With the Mexican star sitting comfortably at the top of the super featherweight mountain, he could see his competitors coming from a mile away.
Berchelt was unintimidated as he witnessed Jamel Herring win a 130-pound world title. He also appeared unthreatened by the arrival of Shakur Stevenson. No matter who sauntered into Berchelt’s division, he believed the results would remain the same. Meaning, at some point, they would all fold underneath his pernicious knockout power.
Despite being viewed as the man to beat, Oscar Valdez, a former titlist at 126 pounds, became fixated on Berchelt’s throne. But while Valdez was respected and well-established as a featherweight, his performances at 130 pounds were uninspiring.
As he attempted to get his feet wet in his newfound division, Valdez provided a lackluster effort in his super featherweight debut against Jayson Velez. So, unsurprisingly, most of the boxing world gave Valdez little to no shot at pulling off the win against the long-standing champion. But as Berchelt confidently walked through the fanless MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in February of 2021, he smiled from ear to ear, believing his showdown against Valdez would end the way most of his contests normally have, with his hand raised high and his opponent gasping for air, concussed on the canvas.
What proceeded, however, was about as one-sided a beating as you’ll ever witness. Valdez came out strong, boxing well on the outside and tagging his man repeatedly. In round four, things truly began falling apart for Berchelt as Valdez sent him crashing down to the deck. From there, Berchelt was reacquainted with the canvas several times over until he was finally put out of his misery in the tenth.
During the round, just moments before Berchelt was met with his unexpected demise, Valdez took one step back before landing a flush left hand. Once the blow connected, Berchelt’s body immediately went limp and before he crashed headfirst, Valdez ran joyfully around the ring, knowing their contest was officially over.
The loss for Berchelt was a painful one but one he believed he needed. With the Mexican knockout artist moving on from the 130-pound division and attempting to make his mark as a 135 pounder, he appeared confident, excited, and in the best shape of his life heading into his showdown against Jeremia Nakathila this past weekend.
Nothing appeared out of place. Berchelt still sported his trademark grin during their ceremonial weigh-ins, as he flexed and showed off his physique. Nevertheless, while Berchelt looked the same physically, Valdez has seemingly changed him for good.
The normally front-footed, aggressive fighter was absent. He was instead replaced with a more defensive-minded and cautious slugger. One who refused to let his hands go, even while he was in range. Nakathila didn’t complain. He moved forward, pressed Berchelt against the ropes, and wailed on the defenseless former champion for six grueling rounds until being forced to cede that Nakathila was the better man.
Although surprising, we’ve seen Berchelt’s case littered throughout the history of boxing. From Mike Tyson becoming a bit gun shy following his shocking loss at the hands of James “Buster” Douglas in 1990, to Adrian Broner admitting that his physically taxing showdown against Marcos Maidana cost him much more than just his perfect record.
Berchelt’s case is no different. Wins and losses come with the sport of boxing. However, they aren’t all analogous. From now until Berchelt ultimately decides to hang up the gloves for good, he’ll provide his fans with a false sense of security. He’ll pound the heavy bag when training, flex audaciously in the face of his competition and proudly claim that he’ll win a world title at 135 pounds.
But, despite the bravado and conjecture he’ll continue to spew, Berchelt doesn’t appear to be the same fighter he once was. What seemed to be just an inconsequential loss at the hands of Valdez, is showing signs of more than just that. No, it wasn’t just another tally in Berchelt’s loss column, it may have been the end of the former titlist as we once knew.