Every so often we, boxing fans, get a fight that we're incredibly excited about, even if the non-boxing-fan is unlikely to care about the contest. We get one such fight this coming weekend as heavy handed Japanese southpaw Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24) [三浦 隆司] challenges WBC Super Featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28) in a mandatory world title fight. The two men aren't cross over-stars by any stretch of the imagination, but they are fighters who deliver bang for their buck and are both must watch fighters with dynamite in their hands.
Berchelt is making his first defense of the title, a title he won last time out when he stopped Francisco Vargas in a real break out performance. It's worth noting that Vargas had himself taken the title from Miura in 2015, in a FOTY contender, but it did look like Vargas was a shell of his usual self against Berchelt. Now it may have been a case that Berchelt made Vargas look that bad, or it may well have been a case that Vargas had simply been broken down by wars with the likes of Miura and Orlando Salido.
If that win by Berchelt over Vargas was a sign of how good Berchelt was, as opposed to how shop worn Vargas was, then it's a sign that Berchelt is a real threat to anyone at 130lbs, including Vasyl Lomachenko. He looked like a fantastic boxer-puncher, moving brilliantly and delivering heavy shots on the move. Prior to the bout he had been known as a slightly crude boxer, more focusing on his power than his boxing, but against Vargas he showed everything that a fighter can show.
Blessed with natural power Berchelt has the ability to box, bang or brawl. He may not be quite as natural as Lomachenko in terms of his boxing, or as heavy handed as Gervonta Davis, but he combines the traits really well and looks more rounded than Davis already. It's also worth noting that he's only 25, so coming in to his prime, and despite having a loss on his record it does look like a blip, as opposed to a sign of issues. The loss was an opening round defeat to the unknown Luis Eduardo Florez more than 3 years ago, but since then he has gone 10-0 (10) with wins over Rene Gonzalez, Sergio Puente, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo and Vargas. That sort of run seems to suggest that the loss was one that really helped Berchelt, rather than hindered his career.
For Miura this will be a chance to become a 2-time champion, rebuild his reputation as a Mexi-killer, have another thriller on international soil, potentially kick off a summer of Japanese success in the US and a summer to remember for the Teiken gym.
At his core Miura is a left hand happy southpaw brawler. He's rough around the edges, incredibly crude and a bit slow. But his left hand is pure dynamite and when he lands it any fighter can be in trouble. That should make him seem predictable but like most brawlers his shots aren't the most orthodox and due to his pressure and work rate his shots can come from real varied angles. His left hand is well known about, but almost no one has ever truly avoided it, and even those he hasn't stopped, such as Takashi Uchiyama, Sergio Thompson and Jorge Perez, have been dropped by his power. He really does have dynamite in his left hand, and his 67% KO rate really doesn't do his power justice.
Whilst offensive Miura is a nightmare his biggest issue is his defense. He's a fighter who has often gone with the idea “attack is the best form of defense”, and that has worked well over-all but hasn't been perfect. As a result he's suffered stoppages to Uchiyama, when he face was badly swollen, and Vargas, when he was knocked loopy by the Mexican. Even in bouts he's won, such as his wins over Thompson, Miguel Roman, Seiichi Okada and RJ Anoos he was tagged a fair bit and had his defensive flaws picked at. In fact in some ways the Anoos fight may well be the key bout to look at coming into this one. That may be a strange statement but Anoos made great use of his speed and jab, keeping Miura at range and flicking quick shots into his face, something that Berchelt will likely do.
On paper this could really go one of three ways. It could be a blow out as soon as either guy lands, if they catch their man clean early on it could be an early finish, both are huge punchers and both have the potential to take the other out early. That's shown in the stats, as Miura has 12 wins in the first 2 rounds and Berchelt has 14. We could also see the two men showing the toughness to weather the early storm and engage in a real fire fight, which will see both take a lot of punishment and will give the fans their money's worth in an all out brawl, the fight we all want to see. The third option is that Berchelt's speed and movement will simply be too much for the hunger and desire of Miura and he will put shot from range, using his lighter feet and take control of the bout, before running away with a victory, either by decision or late stoppage.
We all really, perhaps even expect, a brawl. If we get that then the fight is a real 50-50, either man could take the other out. If Berchelt can avoid a brawl, box at range, as he did against Vargas, and use his movement, then he should be able to win. He will however have to try his best to avoid holding his feet and having a fight. The more they stand out trade, the better chance Miura has of taking the win.
We would love to see Miura become a 2-time champion, score his 7th win over a Mexican opponent and his third win on international soil. But we can't help feeling that Berchelt has the advantages needed to retain his title.
Over the past 12 months we have seen a massive shake up of the Super Featherweight division. Just 10 months ago the divisional champions were Takashi Uchiyama, the then WBA “super” champion, Takashi Miura, the then WBC champion, Roman Martinez, the WBO champion, and Jose Pedraza, the IBF champion. Now, a year on, the champions are very different with the sudden emergence of Jezreel Corrales, who now holds the WBA “super” title, Franisco Vargas, the WBC title hold, Vasyl Lomachenko, the current WBO champion, and the only champion from a year ago is Pedraza, who was lucky not to lose his title in his first defense.
Whilst the title picture has had a shake up we have also seen “secondary” titles change hands or pop up with the WBA having the newly crowned Jason Sosa as their “regular” champion and the WBO having a rare “interim” champion in the form of Miguel Berchelt (29-1, 26), a genuinely exciting Mexican.
Berchelt makes the first defense of his title this coming weekend when he takes on hugely experienced Thai Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (61-2, 41), who is getting his third shot at a “world” title, having lost to Lomachenko and Chris John in title bouts at Featherweight.
Whilst we're not usually a fan of “interim” titles, we will admit we do like it when they throw up bouts like this, one that look good on paper and should be fun when the fighters get in the ring.
For those who haven't seen the champion Berchelt is genuinely fun to watch. He's a little bit crude, a little bit defensively awkward but he's got the gift of power, in both hands. When he turned professional, aged 19, he reeled off stoppages for fun and swiftly moved to 21-0 (18). Those KO's left him feeling like superman and looking like he felt he could just walk through anything. That cost him in 2014, when he was stopped in 99 seconds by fellow puncher Luis Eduardo Florez.
The loss to Florez would have totally derailed lesser fighters but Berchelt has quickly rebuilt his momentum and reeled off 8 straight stoppage wins, including victories over Antonio Escalante, Rene Gonzalez and Sergio Puente, all fringe contenders, as well as George Jupp, who he beat for the interim title earlier this year.
Amazingly he's only 24, he's improving and with his power he's going to be a nightmare for anyone outside of the divisional elite, though he could make for some potential thrillers with the second tier guys in the division.
When it comes to Chonlatarn the first thing that strikes many fans is his impressive record which features more than 60 wins. Like many Thai's however those wins have regularly been over weak opponents and the number of decent names on his record is disappointing. On paper his best wins are two victories over fellow Thai Yoddamrong Sithyodthong, though Yoddamrong was well past his prime by then, a win over Vinvin Rufino and a victory over the under-rated Adones Aguelo. Not exactly outstanding for a man with more than 60 wins.
Whilst his best wins are lacking quality it is fair to say he has fought two tremendous fights in Chris John, who took a clear decision over him on 2012, and Vasyl Lomachneko, who totally schooled him in 2014. Notably those bouts were both at 126lbs, though it seems he feels he has filled out and is now competing at 130lbs, where he has been focusing all year.
Stylistically Chonlatarn is a bit of a one paced, pressure fighter who comes forward slowly and looks to work up close. Against John and Lomachenko that tactic was never going to work due to the huge difference in speed and skill, but against lesser fighters it has worked with Chonlatarn using his weight and strength to great advantage over lesser foes.
Sadly for Chonlatarn we don't think his style or ability bodes well here against a thunderously hard hitting Berchelt, who we suspect will hit him hard and hit him often, eventually forcing a stoppage of the limited but game Thai, likely in the middle rounds of the fight
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.