Bloody and Bruised: Berchelt and Miura Emerge Victorious. It’s not often that boxing fans get to witness two fights back-to-back that are so steeped in savagery that they likely takes years off of the respective careers of those involved. But that’s exactly what Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman, Francisco Vargas and Miguel Berchelt gave us on Saturday night on HBO, each man leaving a piece of his former self in the ring at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
It started with the rugged, former lightweight title challenger Miguel Roman taking on Japanese warrior Takashi Miura. In a bout that gave us very little in the way of defensive nous, it was the sledgehammer-like left of Miura that eventually turned the tide and gave the former WBC champ a KO win in the 12th and final round.
After an even first few rounds it was Roman who took charge of the bout. He banged away to the body and face of Miura, forcing him on the back foot on a few occasions but the will to win never faded for Japan’s hard man. He weathered the storm and began to throw back his own hard shots. In the tenth round he finally smashed one out of the park after swinging for the fences so often throughout the night, landing a tremendous body punch that should have ended the fight.
A lesser man would have conceded defeat, but not Miguel Roman. He proved that he possesses a heart bigger than most as he dragged his broken body off the canvas to continue to wage war. The end was near for him though, as Miura, a born finisher, took it to his opponent with the gusto of a much younger and hungrier man. He dropped Roman again in the eleventh and finally put him away in the twelfth with his famed left cross.
The main event between Francisco Vargas and Miguel Berchelt proved to be just as vicious. Vargas, the WBC super featherweight champion had seen his fair share of brutality since winning the belt from Miura back in November of 2015. His face featured a series of peaks and valleys of scar tissue and before a punch was even thrown you knew it was always going to be a bloody affair for him.
The opening round went the way of the champion and as to be expected from two Mexican warriors such as these, there was little in the way of a ‘feeling out’ period. The younger, fresher fighter in Berchelt took over in the second round and systematically set about slicing up the face of Vargas.
As the savagery progressed, the HBO commentary team drew parallels with other great ring wars; names such as Arturo Gatti, Mickey Ward, Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales were thrown about. Make no mistake, this fight was not for the faint of heart.
The two men continued to trade heavy artillery, straight rights to the jaw, left hooks to the body, uppercuts to the chin, but neither man would take a backward step. But it was Berchelt getting the better of things and, despite a rally from Vargas in the middle rounds, it was clear he was wearing down the already heavily shop-worn champion. The challenger opened up a gruesome cut over Vargas’ eye and he likely took more than just the belt when all was said and done.
In the end, the fight was stopped by the referee in round 11 but it was over well before then. It was only the warrior spirit of Vargas that had prolonged his beating. One can’t help sensing that Vargas, with three absolute wars in his last three bouts, may never be the same again, such was the beating he took.
Vargas has lost his coveted world title but he gained an even bigger respect from the fans, his involvement in yet another fight of the year contender solidifying his status as one of the sport’s toughest men. Berchelt proved he is certainly one to watch and a mouth-watering clash against Takashi Miura may be next for the 25-year-old champion.
Meanwhile, over on Showtime ….
Leo Santa Cruz (33-1-1) got revenge over Carl Frampton (23-1), pounding out a clear-cut majority decision victory in a rematch of their exciting battle from last July. Santa Cruz was much sharper this time around, with this tilt fought on different terms, almost a mirror image of the first encounter when the Irishman had a clear edge.
Santa Cruz boxed and kept his distance in the opening round and started working off the jab. This would prove a key factor in the bout. He was simply the sharper, more assertive fighter. He outboxed Frampton early then began to outwork Frampton, attacking in rounds five and six and mixing in an effective body attack. To his credit, Frampton ramped up the aggression in rounds seven and eight and the result was some great exchanges. The sense of urgency intensified in the late rounds but by this time Santa Cruz had a strong lead which Frampton could not overcome.
The fight appeared more clearcut than the 115-113 and 114-114 scores from the judges. With the win Santa Cruz recaptured his WBA featherweight title before a boisterous crowd at the MGM in Las Vegas. It was another entertaining scrap between these two champions and everyone is already calling for a third meeting between these two. No doubt boxing could use more rivalries like this. A rubber match should be huge.
The co-main event on Showtime was a violent one as two-division world champion Mikey Garcia (36-0) brutally knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin (22-1) to capture the WBC lightweight title. Garcia stunned his man with an uppercut and then put him out cold in round three with a vicious right hand. It was a frightening knockout, but Zlaticanin did recover after several minutes and seemed okay.
“I’m very happy with the performance,” said Garcia. “We were controlling the pace and distance right away from the first round. I saw some openings and I thought I could hurt him later down the road, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that soon in the fight…he’s a tough guy, he was able to take some good punches. But when I finally did hurt him, I went for that right hand. I knew it was a good shot.”
Mikey Garcia now seems poised to re-emerge as a major star in the sport and has to be considered one of the best boxers in the world right now, pound-for-pound.
— Daniel Attias