LAS VEGAS — There are plenty of familiar names among the 42 on Luis Eduardo Florez’s record, but one in particular stands out.
On March 15, 2014, Florez was 15-1 and scheduled to fight a 10-rounder in Palenque, Mexico, against an unbeaten but largely unknown at the time super featherweight.
The fight only last 99 seconds, ended by a Florez left hook that landed on the chin. His opponent rose on unsteady legs and the fight was stopped.
Florez is only 9-16 since then and has lost eight of his last nine fights. But that win in 2014 has taken on added significance as Miguel Berchelt makes final preparations to defend his WBC super featherweight championship on Saturday at the MGM Grand Conference Center against unbeaten former featherweight champion Oscar Valdez.
That loss is all that stands between Berchelt and a 38-0 mark.
He’s a self-effacing guy and said he learned a lot from his only defeat. When pressed on what, specifically, he learned by getting knocked out, he chuckled.
“I learned from that fight I could also hit the floor, get put on the canvas,” said Berchelt, who counts 33 knockouts of his own among his 37 victories and that sole defeat. “But I got up.”
It’s one of the vagaries of boxing that a fighter could be 37-1 with 33 knockouts with eight title defenses and be an unknown. But Berchelt could walk down Las Vegas Boulevard unbothered and unnoticed in the nominal "Fight Capital of the World" despite headlining in what figures to be a sensational bout on Saturday.
Berchelt, though, wants to make a name for himself with his performance against Valdez. He’s a very big favorite, at -350, to defeat Valdez, who is +275 at BetMGM.
Berchelt doesn’t see Valdez as an easy mark by any means and believes that a victory over such an accomplished fighter, after wins over Francisco Vargas, Miguel Roman and Takashi Miura, among others, should help him to get a spot in the pound-for-pound Top 10.
“Oscar is a great fighter and I think this fight will take me to the next level,” Berchelt said. “It’s going to make me one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.”
He deserves a spot in that discussion without question, but he’s already on a more significant list. He’s one of the top action stars in the sport.
He’s reminiscent of Erik Morales, the Hall of Famer who once held the very belt that Berchelt will be defending on Saturday, in the way he throws a high volume of punches but can still box astutely.
Berchelt isn’t the kind of guy to run to the center of the ring, stick his chin out and start slugging away in some kind of crazy macho bid to see who can take it the longest. He’s able to set up his shots and box while maintaining a high pace.
“He really wants to get you out of there and he fights like that, but he’s very smart,” Top Rank’s Bob Arum said.
That’s the point Berchelt will try to make on Saturday. He shows off the art of boxing while still engaging in a breathtaking, high-volume attack.
“I have the skills, I have the boxing ability and I have a good corner,” Berchelt said. “The fans should not miss this fight because it’s going to be very explosive. Everyone knows what happens when two Mexicans get in the ring. It’s going to be a very explosive fight and that’s why they should not miss it.”
Twenty years ago nearly to the day, Morales fought Marco Antonio Barrera in the first of what turned out to be three unbelievable fights. They created one of the best trilogies in boxing history, one that easily stands beside any three-fight series you might name.
Morales earned a controversial split decision over Barrera on Feb. 19, 2000, in a Fight of the Year battle.
Berchelt suspects he could see Valdez again multiple times down the line, regardless of who wins this one, because of the type of fight it will be, much like Morales-Barrera two decades earlier.
“This is the kind of fight the fans will want to see again,” Berchelt said. “Some people say boxing is dead or dying, but with this fight, we’ll show that boxing is very much alive. If the fans want to see it again after this one, I’m here to give them good fights so I’ll be down to do it again.”
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