Sting operation: Berchelt stops Vargas, wins WBC title
Miguel “El Alacran” Berchelt captured the WBC junior lightweight title after forcing an 11th round stoppage of Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas on Saturday night. The fight was the main event of an “HBO Boxing After Dark” card and held at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
With 41 seconds remaining in the 11th round, referee Raul Caiz Jr. jumped in to stop the beating and bludgeoning Vargas had endured in the fight’s previous few rounds. The pride of Mexico City embraced Caiz’s hug rather than protesting it, knowing he was soundly beaten before being saved from even more damage. He was stung by a kid nicknamed “The Scorpion” but Vargas didn’t go out without a fight.
It didn’t take long for the two Mexicans to provide the action they promised building up to the fight. Berchelt’s right hand was accurate early on and it forced Vargas to immediately try and outwork him. In the final 30 seconds of the second round, both were able to hurt each other. After being stunned by a right hand, Vargas bit down in the pocket and landed an overhand right that had Berchelt reeling for the round’s final moments.
The fight was on since but Berchelt got the better of Vargas with the crisper, more accurate shots. Vargas was landing the better shots to the body but Berchelt’s snapping shots to the head overshadowed that work. In the fourth round, an accidental headbutt started the bleeding for Vargas above his left eye. Later in the same round, a Berchelt left hook caused a leaking gash near his right eye.
Berchelt, a 25-year-old from Cancun, worked on those cuts with fluid combinations. Just about everything came off the jab and Berchelt amassed a 53% connect rate of his power punches for the entire fight. Vargas frantically fought back but, by the end of the eighth, it was clear he was just out-gunned by the spry contender. During the final minute of the ninth round, Caiz asked the ringside doctor to take a look at Vargas’ cuts and, once time resumed, Berchelt proceeded to make things even worse. The doc was back on the ring to start the 10th and as endearing as Vargas’ effort was, the fight was begging to be stopped as Vargas continued to suffer through the 11th.
“I wanted to fight the best of the best and this fight happened because of that,” said Berchelt. “Francisco is a great champion; he has fought the best and has been in two “Fight of the Year” contests. I knew what I was getting into; he has great heart. I left my heart and soul on the mat. I am young and hungry and I want to fight the best because that is how champions are made. I want to thank Vargas for this incredible opportunity.”
Berchelt, 31-1 (28), who was a mandatory opponent set by the WBC, wins a world title in his first attempt and has plenty of options in a division that’s flourishing in talent. Fighting under the Zanfer Promotions banner, there are no political blockades keeping him from unifying a division with fellow titleholders like Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO), Gervonta Davis (IBF) and Jezreel Corrales (WBA).
“I want to wish Berchelt all the best,” said Vargas, 23-1-2 (17), after receiving his first defeat. “It was a tough fight and he’s young, with a lot of heart and passion and hunger. He cut me, and I just wasn’t able to see because the blood kept coming into my eyes. I am not the type of fighter to give in and I will always be fighting. I am a warrior and I will be that to the very end. I probably would have kept going if they wouldn’t have stopped the fight. I want a rematch.”
For his third straight fight, Vargas’ face was a bloody mess and it’s a testament to the type of fight he brings in the ring. El Bandido is now 1-1-1 in those three fights but, unlike the other two, Berchelt’s dominance will keep this one from being a Fight of the Year candidate.
Takashi Miura willed himself to a 12th round knockout victory over Miguel “Mickey” Roman in the HBO co-feature.
The beginning of the end for Roman came in the final seconds of the 10th round in which a perfectly placed left hook to his gut put him on the canvas. It was a wonder how he got up but he did just in time to beat referee Thomas Taylor’s 10-count and the bell saved him from further punishment. That was for the time being, however, as Miura had him helpless against the ropes in the middle of the 11th, forcing the Mexican to slowly fall to his knees after an accumulation of shots.
Timing a perfect, short left hand down the middle, Miura landed a final shot to Roman’s face 53 seconds into the final round. Roman was dropped immediately and Taylor counted to 10 before the former could make it to his feet.
Miura, 31-3-2 (24), took his fate out of the judges’ hands in a grueling contest. It took awhile for these two dance partners to get into sequence but, once they did, Miura and Roman showcased their resolve. Roman, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was the first to strike in the second round with a body shot. His right hand found Miura’s body often, to start, and the Japanese contender was the first to show signs of being perplexed in the fight.
A 32-year-old southpaw fighting out of Tokyo, Japan, Miura started to find his distance in the third but used a right hand to return the favor to Roman’s body. In the waning seconds of the fourth round, Roman got clipped with a perfect lunging left hand by Miura. Admitting to the punch’s quality, Roman insisted on touching gloves with Miura after the round ended. Roman proceeded to exploit Miura’s body again in the fifth and also landed a big right hand to his head during a one-sided flurry. Roman continued his persistence to the body through round six and a straight right hand buckled Miura in its final seconds.
Miura’s corner could be heard asking if he was OK before the seventh round and he responded with exuberance. Starting in the seventh, Miura bellowed with every whipping hook he swung at Roman. There was an added ferocity to his punches and they began to pierce through Roman’s weakened guard. He was startled to start the seventh but Roman knocked Miura’s mouthpiece out with a right hand. However, Miura’s will kept him in the fray.
Both men seemed spent by the eighth round but the fight was in its groove as both continued to go back and forth with shots that had knockout intentions. It had its gruesome moments, and some blood was drawn, but Miura quickly changed the action fight into a one-sided affair after that wonderful body shot.
“My hands feel great, despite it being a war in there,” said Miura after the win. “These are the types of fights that I want. I want the winner of the next fight (Berchelt-Vargas) next.”
“This was an amazing fight to be a part of and I will be meeting with my promoter to be discussing future opportunities to continue fighting,” said Roman, 56-12 (43). “I was caught off-guard by some of his low punches but all in all it was a great fight. I wish him the best.”