SAN DIEGO, January 27, 2017 – Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas earned his WBC super featherweight title and defended it over the toughest total of 21 rounds in two fights any boxer has endured since Arturo Gatti.
Fans hope Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) will deliver his third straight Fight of the Year show against Mexican slugger Miguel Berchelt at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, California. The bout will air on HBO Boxing After Dark at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Both fighters made weight; see the weigh-in here.
In 2015, Vargas got off the canvas to defeat Japanese champion Takashi Miura in a ninth round TKO. Six months later, Vargas fought 12 brutally tough rounds against Orlando Salido to a draw, hanging on to his WBC featherweight title.
While Vargas wouldn’t mind a quick, easy performance on Saturday, he knows it’s not likely against the hard-punching Berchelt, whose only loss was a first-round knockout by obscure Colombian boxer, Luis Eduardo Florez. Florez suffered his own KO loss to American Jamel Herring early in 2016. While Berchelt’s 90 percent knockout rate is impressive, he lacks the resume of Vargas, and this will be only his second fight outside of Mexico in the U.S.
Nevertheless, Berchelt projects complete confidence in his ability to challenge Vargas. He appreciates the opportunity and he’s not going to squander it. “This is something everyone dreams about, this is a great opportunity to fight on HBO, “said Berchelt through translator Jerry Olaya. Berchelt said Vargas takes him lightly at his own risk.
“They’re talking past me already and they might have problems with me in this fight … He’s had two wars recently. But I have a long list of knockouts, and I think this is the secret to this fight.”
Vargas says he’s looking forward to getting in the ring after a long layoff to recover from two tough fights. “This title cost me a lot to win, and I am not going to let it go easily. I’m taking my belt back with me.” While Vargas says he wouldn’t mind an easy night, he’s prepared to put on the kind of war the fans love. Vargas knows he is beloved by the boxing public for his warrior attitude. He smiles and laughs about it when he gets the inevitable questions about whether he’s going for his third FOTY on Saturday. “Boxing fans know what to expect every time I step into the ring—and that is a war,” said Vargas.
But these type of fights take years off a boxer’s career, and Vargas can still be a warrior by adding some boxing skills to the mix so he scores without absorbing so much punishment. In both his FOTY bouts, Vargas was seriously cut and withstood a lot of pounding while dishing out plenty of his own. It’s still hard to believe he stayed on his feet against Salido. Vargas needs to avoid being cut and avoid letting Berchelt pound on him for the sake of entertainment. But we all know in the heat of the moment with the fans going wild, above all Vargas likes to entertain. See highlights of his previous bouts here.
Orlando Salido plans to be ringside to watch Vargas and Berchelt, as well as the undercard bout between Vargas’s 2015 FOTY opponent, Takashi Miura of Japan. Miura (30-3-2, 23 KOs) faces lightweight veteran Miguel “Mickey” Roman of Mexico (56-11, 43 KOs). The sturdy Roman has fought a handful of bouts outside Mexico and lost to a handful of well-known opponents.
Miura was originally scheduled to fight Salido, but withdrew due to injury. He’s shaken off the disappointment of his loss to Vargas; he believes he could have continued and finished the bout. He can get right back in contention with a win against Roman in what is certain to be just as action-packed as the main event. “I was very disappointed when I lost to Vargas, but I have redirected myself and I am excited to begin my journey toward winning back my title,” said Miura. Miura had a single fight last May in Japan, ending with a first-round knockout.
Roman intends to come straight at Miura without delay. “I’m going to go for the knockout from the opening bell. I know that’s the style Miura has as well but I’m going to get to him first,” said Roman.
Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions said, “We know that the fans love knockouts, and these four guys have 110 KOs among them all. I think that speaks for itself and gives you a good idea of what Saturday night is going to be like.”
“I’m ready to give the fans what they want to see,” said Vargas. While it ‘s breathtaking to watch the bravery and skill of warriors like Vargas, one also has to wonder how much more fans can ask of them for our entertainment. It wouldn’t hurt for him to protect himself a little more on Saturday en route to a victory, setting up a possible Miura rematch.
Undercard fight lineup on RingTVLive.com
Fans shouldn’t overlook the undercard fights featuring several worthwhile matchups. They will be streamed live via RingTVLive.com
Middleweight Tureano Johnson of the Bahamas had a terrific performance on the Golovkin vs. Lemieux undercard in 2015. He became GGG’s mandatory opponent, but was injured in training and lost out. Johnson (19-1, 13 KOs) would love to get back in the middleweight mix with a solid outing against Antonio Guitierrez of Mexico (21-2-1, 9 KOs). Guiterrez is no pushover. He lost a close decision to Gabriel Rosado last June, a fight most observers believe Guitierrez won. Johnson’s only loss was to Curtis Stevens.
Also on the undercard is welterweight Sadam Ali of Brooklyn, (23-1-0, 13 KOs), who would like to be considered for some top name opposition with a win over Jorge Silva of Mexico (22-12-2, 18 KOs); and super featherweight prospect Lamont Roach of Washington DC (12-0, 4 KOs) against Alejandro Valdez of Mexico (26-8-2, 20 KOs) for a WBC youth super featherweight belt.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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