Regardless of anyone’s opinions of the state of boxing in the 21st century, there’s no denying that with some seventeen different weight divisions, four major sanctioning bodies, and numerous lineal, interim, super, junior and franchise title belts floating around, it’s easy for even a so-called “world champion” to get lost in the shuffle. And while it can be argued that more than a few top talents are unfairly overlooked, one name that stands out for me is that of Mexican stalwart, Miguel Berchelt, aka “El Alacrán.”
Some fight fans may be surprised to learn that Berchelt is among the sport’s longest-reigning title-holders, the 29-year-old holding the WBC junior lightweight belt since January 2017, with six title defenses to his credit. Despite this fact, and a 37-1 record with 33 knockouts, when serious fans debate the top fighters in the game today, pound-for-pound, they don’t talk much about “The Scorpion.” This is something that needs to change and I believe Berchelt will help make that change happen in a big way this coming Saturday. That’s when he’ll answer the bell to battle undefeated former champ and Mexican rival, Oscar Valdez.
Interestingly, as a youth growing up in Cancun, Miguel Berchelt did not dream of being a champion boxer. Instead his heart’s desire was to follow in the footsteps of his hometown idol, soccer legend Hugo Sanchez. At the age of sixteen Berchelt tried out for Sanchez’s storied team, Pumas UNAM of Mexico City, but the result was a spot in the club’s third division. A disappointed Berchelt returned to Cancun, but he put aside the bitterness of rejection by discovering a new passion at Casa de los Guerreros Gym. There he fully committed himself to the ring, launching an amateur career that saw him become a three-time national champ. But he was stung by rejection once again when his name did not appear on the roster for Mexico’s 2012 Olympics squad.
“I won the gold medal at the National Olympiad, in the elite category, and I was looking forward to joining the national team but they never called me,” recalled Berchelt. “The problem was that in my division there was Oscar Valdez, who had already gone to the Olympics, but they never gave me the opportunity to face him.”
With his dream of standing on an Olympic podium denied, Berchelt wasted no time signing a contract with a promoter, relocating to the city of Merida, and making his pro debut on his nineteenth birthday in 2010. By the end of his first full year as a pro he had eleven wins, nine by knockout. In March 2013 he made his U.S. debut, scoring a TKO win on the undercard of Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado II in Las Vegas. He suffered an upset first round TKO defeat to one Luis Florez in 2014, but came back strong with nine straight stoppage wins before knocking out undefeated Francisco Vargas for a world title.
Reflecting on his journey, Berchelt declared that he wouldn’t trade being a world champion for anything, including his first passion of being a soccer player. “This belt has cost me blood, sweat and many tears. God puts you on the path that is for you and that is why I am not a footballer.”
Berchelt is viewed by many as the best junior lightweight today, in the mix with highly regarded rivals Gervonta Davis and Joseph Diaz Jr. Speaking for myself, I have him sliding in at number ten on my pound-for-pound list. And it’s worth noting he’s among the best Mexicans in the game right now, sharing the spotlight in his homeland with Canelo Alvarez and Juan Francisco Estrada. But the primary reason why Berchelt’s public profile should be more than what it is has to do with his fighting style. Berchelt brings to the ring an attitude of menace, total killer instinct, a desire to go to war that any fight fanatic can get behind. He gives the fans action while giving his opponents savage beatings.
There’s no better evidence of this than the line-up of top fighters he humbled on his run to the title. Francisco Vargas, Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman and Jason Sosa were all overwhelmed by the relentless pressure and aggression of “The Scorpion.” Berchelt is made for combat. Mean-spirited and relentless, he reminds me of one of those Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots, always throwing big bombs while controlling the action, demonstrating the right dosage of power, work rate, quickness and movement to knock his challengers’ heads off. In his last fight, a six-round demolition of Eleazar Valenzuela, Berchelt landed an impressive sixty-three percent of his power shots. He’s a machine of destruction, bound and determined to get to the very top.
And on February 20th on ESPN it will be an all-Mexican battle for Berchelt, against the guy chosen over him for a spot on the Mexican national team, Oscar Valdez, former featherweight champion and Top Rank stablemate. They never squared off as amateurs so the fuse for this duel was lit a long time ago and the match-up is guaranteed to be explosive. The bout ranks second for me as an early Fight of the Year candidate, right behind Estrada vs Roman Gonzalez II in March.
Berchelt is certainly craving this moment. “This fight is the one that I dreamed of,” he stated when news of the match-up was announced. Promoter Bob Arum said he views Berchelt vs Valdez fight as “this generation’s Barrera vs Morales,” which may sound hyperbolic, but there’s no doubt this is Berchelt’s big chance to get the attention I think he deserves. If he defeats Valdez, then matches against the likes of Jamel Herring, Carl Frampton, or Shakur Stevenson become highly attractive. And these big money battles are possible since all of these fighters are with Top Rank. This means Berchelt could have the chance to become a unified champ at 130 pounds, an amazing achievement.
And if that happens, then comes the match-up that I’ve longed for: a showdown with “Hi-Tech.” Berchelt vs Vasiliy Lomachenko would definitely create major buzz. Yes, I know, Loma fights at 135, and I’m getting ahead of myself, but the bottom line is if Berchelt keeps giving fans impressive performances and smackdown wins, he’ll be cracking more pound-for-pound lists. With more success comes more opportunities, ones that could lead to a high stakes clash with Loma. And you better believe, Berchelt wants all the smoke.
But first he must get past Oscar Valdez, his Mexican rival. This is it, Berchelt’s time to shine in the spotlight. And I am of the firm conviction that come Saturday night, Valdez will be feeling the sting of “El Alacrán.” — James Simpson