The Super Featherweight division is one that has an interesting feel to it right now, with a good mix of champions, and a solid variety of challengers. Sadly the division hasn't been giving us the fights we want, but it's not been boring either with a number of solid bouts taking place at 130lbs in recent years.
WBC-Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33)
Heavy handed Mexican Miguel Berchelt has become a bit of a forgotten figure in the division, yet he's probably the most interesting fighter at 130lbs. "El Alarcran" is 28 years old and has held the title for around 3 years, since stopping Francisco Vargas way back in 2017. Berchelt not only has a win over Vargas but also victories over Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman and Jason Sosa. Heavy handed, exciting, and aggressive Berchelt should be a focal point for the division but needs a suitable dance partner in 2020, rather than fighters who are on the slide, like he's faced in recent bouts.
IBF - Tevin Farmer (30-4-1, 6)
One fighter who has been given a lot of attention is American Tevin Farmer, who has been one of the big winners from Eddie Hearn working with DAZN, who have really tried to make Farmer into a star despite serving him up some awful challengers. The "American Idol" is a slippery and highly skilled defensive fighter who has run up 4 defenses since winning the title in August 2018. Sadly his competition has, for the most part, been against European level challengers who were horribly unproven at world level. Thankfully at the end of this month he steps up, massively, to take on Joseph Diaz in what should be a genuine, and well over-dug, test for Farmer.
WBO- Jamel Herring (21-2, 10)
American fighter Jamel Herring is a real good guy, a former US Marine and a man with a fantastic story. He was a former amateur standout who struggled to make an impact at 135lbs but has really found his footing at Super Featherweight with wins against Masayuki Ito and Lamont Roach. Aged 34 his time on top is likely limited, though there is talk of a big money bout with Carl Frampton fight later in the year. Despite a likely short reign he'll make the most of it and is a very skilled southpaw boxer-mover with fantastic height and reach for the division. Probably the "weakest" of the champions but still a very good fighter, who seems to want the big bouts.
WBA "super" - Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19)
The WBA have a mess on their hands at 130lbs, with Leo Santa Cruz winning the "super" title in November when he moved up in weight and took on Miguel Flores for the then vacant "super" title. Santa Cruz is a legitimate big name, and a "4 weight" world champion, but a title like this does him no favours at all. Sadly his reign at Featherweight was relatively poor and although still a fun fighter to watch the Mexican has lost much of the good will fans had for him when he was at Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight. A high guy with a solid chin and under-rated skills Santa Cruz had the tools to be a star, though like Berchelt a lack of credible opponents and in ring activity, has helped him back from being a real star.
WBA - "Regular" Rene Alvarado (32-8, 21)
The WBA really do want us to never forget the mess they have created at 130lbs. We've just mentioned Santa Cruz winning the "super" title, the supposedly more legitimate version of their "world" title. The reality however is that Rene Alvarado is the true champion in the division. Alvarado beat Andew Cancio in November for the belt, which was the same belt Cancio had taken from Alberto Machado, who in turn had beaten Jezzrel Corrales who had beaten Takashi Uchiyama, who's reign had been 6 years. The WBA really have created a mess and it doesn't end here. As for Alvarado he's an under-rated, aggressive, rugged type of guy who is riding an excellent 8 fight winning run. Although he has 8 losses he's very much better than the record he sports and a true nightmare at 130lbs.
WBA "interim" - Chris Colbert (14-0, 5)
When we said the WBA have made a mess here we weren't joking. It was on November 23rd that Alvarado claimed the WBA "regular" title, beating Andrew Cancio. On the same night the WBA let Santa Cruz and Flores fight for the Super title. Less than 2 months later they manufactured an "interim" title that talented 23 year old American Chris Colbert won when he beat Jezzrel Corrales. Colbert is a genuine talent, but this title is a farcical one and the heads of the WBA are really making a mockery of themselves with things like this. Colbert is a very good contender on a good run of wins, and fought 5 times in 2019. He should be a top contender, not a plastic title holder.
The Super Featherweight division is a really interesting one right now, with a nice selection of fighters at the top. We have destructive punchers, a stylist and some really amazing possible match ups. We also, sadly, have massive amounts of politics with the WBA causing a mess, as we see all too often, and other niggling issues. We also sort of lack depth in the division, which may end up helping force the top fighters to fight each other sooner, rather than later.
So lets take a look at the champions, which as usual aren't in a set order, but we do group the WBA title holders together.
Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13) - WBO (1 defense)
Japan's Masayuki Ito has been a professional for almost 9 years, but has only just come to the public's attention in 2018, winning the WBO title in the US, by beating Christopher Diaz, and defending at the end of the year, stopping Evgeny Chuprakov. Despite taking a while to reach the top Ito has really done things in an impressive fashion. His first major triumph was in the 2012 Rookie of the Year, he would later go on to win a WBC Youth title, an OPBF title and a WBO Asia Pacific title. In the ring he's a boxer, though who has started to develop some spite, something we didn't earlier in his career. Early in his career he was a pretty pure boxer mover but has started to stand and hold his feet, scoring 10 stoppages in his last 15 fights and only 3 in his first 12. He's certainly not unbeatable, but he's going to be a hard man to dethrone.
Tevin Farmer (28-4-1-1, 6) - IBF (2 defenses)
Another fighter who has had a long battle to the top before getting recognition recently is American Tevin Farmer. He's been a professional since 2011 and actually lost on debut and was 4-3-1 (1) after 8 bouts. His career really has been a hard slog but he's really shown what he can do and he's one of the best pure boxers in the division, with fantastic natural boxing ability, great movement, sharp punching and a high ring IQ. He won his world title in August 2018 and managed to rack 2 defenses in the following 4 months, but they haven't come against the greatest of challengers and it's going to be interesting when he does step up in class. He's talented, without a doubt, but his bouts aren't the most exciting and he does lack real quality wins, with his best results coming against Ivan Redkach, Daulis Prescott and Billy Dib. Hopefully he slows his activity in 2019 and takes on better competition.
Miguel Berchelt (35-1, 31) - WBC (4 defenses)
One of the best boxer-punchers in the sport right now, and one of the most criminally over-looked, is Mexican Miguel Berchelt. Berchelt has held the WBC title since January 2017, when he stopped Francisco Vargas, and has scored 4 defenses. On paper he has the strongest record in the division with wins over Vargas, Takashi Miura, Miguel Roman, Cristobal Cruz, Oliver Flores and Jonathan Victor Barros. Berchelt can pretty much do it all, bang, box, brawl and fight. The one loss on his record is a real freak defeat to Venezuelan Luis Eduardo Florez, almost 5 years ago, and shouldn't really be considered when looking at his future bouts. He caught clean and failed to recover, but has since proven his chin. For us he's the most dangerous fighter in the division.
Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19) - WBA "super" (0 defenses)
Although we think Berchelt is the most dangerous man at 130lbs he does stiff competition in the form of Gervonta Davis. "Tank" is one of the many American fighters who are clearly talented, but simply lack the activity needed to show that talent, the exact opposite of Tevin Farmer. Davis won the IBF title in January 2017, stopping Jose Pedraza, to announce himself on the world stage and defended it once before being stripped for failing to make weight ahead of a bout with Francisco Fonseca. He has since won the WBA "Super" title, in what was clearly a WBA political decision to create a title to give Davis, rather than recognise their "regular" champion as their top guy. Davis is a fantastic boxer, with scary power, a fantastic ability to mix things up and a real attitude in the ring. Sadly he's also the worst managed and promoted fighter in the division, and only fought once in 2018. He's set to defend his title in February against Abner Mares, in a bout that has been widely criticised, and the worry is that he will again fail to be active enough to remain in the memories of fight fans.
Alberto Machado (21-0, 17) - WBA "regular" (2 defenses)
Puerto Rican punches Alberto Machado is another monster puncher at 130lbs, and has a very solid claim to being the WBA's most legitimate champion, despite only being the "regular" champion. Machado beat Jezreel Corrales, who was stripped on the scales before facing Machado. Corrales had ended the long reign of Takashi Uchiyama and should really have been regarded as the fighter with the strongest line at the time, but the WBA didn't really follow any logic, knowing the money that was behind Davis. Since beating Corrales Machado has defended his belt twice, beating both Rafael Mensah and Yuandale Evans. Although not the best boxer he is a dynamite puncher, and puts fighters on the back foot with that power.
Takahiro Onaga is a regular contributor to Asian Boxing and will now be a featured writer in his own column where his takes his shot at various things in the boxing world.