INDIO, California, January 28, 2017 – Fans saw the first “Fight of the Year” candidate for 2017 Saturday at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
But it was the co-main event that provided the superior fireworks.
In the main event, a determined Miguel “The Scorpion” Berchelt of Mexico battered Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas all over the ring, and despite Vargas’ best efforts, Berchelt finally did too much damage for the fight to continue, with referee Raul Caiz Jr. finally stopping the bout at 2:19 of the 11th round.
Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) is now the new WBC super featherweight champion. Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs) was game as always, but Berchelt never let up his assault.
“When two Mexicans are in the ring we guarantee a spectacle, and it was,” said Berchelt. “He’s a great champion and that’s why he had two Fights of the Year. But I showed I have heart also, and I came here to win.” I’m young, I’m hungry, I wanted to be a world champion. I have the belt around my waist and it feels best.”
Berchelt credited his preparation for this opportunity. “I wanted to fight on HBO and I wanted to beat the champions,” said Berchelt. “I came here to win and prove I was a true champion.”
Vargas congratulated Berchelt. He admitted the cuts were a problem. After the fight, Vargas looked terribly bruised and was cut over both eyes. Did he ever consider quitting? “I’m a warrior, I fight till the end. It’s just blood.” Vargas said until the fight is over, he always feels he has a chance to win. “I was never going to stop.”
Berchelt paid tribute to his opponent. “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 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.”
Vargas showed equal respect in defeat. “I want to wish Berchelt all the best. 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.”
Fans love Vargas for his warrior mentality, but he may have reached the point of his career where he has simply absorbed more than his system can handle. Once again, Vargas suffered significant cuts and withstood a lot of pounding. Unlike his previous bouts, he didn’t dish out enough to make it worth the results in the end.
Vargas’s 2015 FOTY opponent, Takashi Miura of Japan, made his FOTY 2017 bid with his stoppage of lightweight veteran Miguel “Mickey” Roman of Mexico in the co-main event. It was a close, competitive fight in the early rounds. The partisan Mexican crowd cheered Roman on while Miura looked for ways to do damage with his left hook.
By the fourth round it turned into a firefight with both men throwing whatever they thought might land. Miura won the first few rounds but Roman had turned the fight around and by the end of the sixth, Miura landed a wicked right hook to Miura’s head. Miura was fortunate it happened at the end of the round.
Miura has impressive powers of recovery, and the pair went right back at each other with full force in the seventh. Roman suffered a cut above the eye, and Miura appeared to be bleeding from the mouth. No one should have been surprised to see this kind of a firefight, but it is incredible to see the determination of both men to withstand each other’s punishment and stay on their feet.
Miura finally landed the shot he wanted, a vicious left hook to the body that dropped Roman to the canvas at the end of the tenth round. Roman managed to get to his feet with super human effort, and the round ended. Miura went right back after the body in the 11th round, trying his best to finish the durable Roman off. He went down again and rose to his feet again although obviously hurting. The referee allowed them to continue and Roman showed he would do whatever it took to end the fight on his feet even as Miura continued to bring the heat.
But it was not to be for the Mexican warrior. Miura Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs) dropped Roman (56-12, 43 KOs) to the canvas for the third and final time just a few minutes shy of the fight’s end at 53 seconds of the 12th and final round. Miura’s two knockdowns had given him the fight and it wouldn’t have changed anything to see Roman finish. But as we have seen before, it’s best not to let the fight go to the scorecards.
Miura is now the mandatory WBC challenger. It sets Miura up for possible bout with Berchelt. Another man who would like a go at Berchelt and his belt is Vargas’s previous opponent Orlando Salido, who was sitting ringside. Fans wouldn’t say no to this match-up.
Undercard fight results: Ali, Roach, Coria win
Welterweight Sadam Ali of Brooklyn (24-1-0, 14 KOs) made his case for some top name opportunities with a third round knockout over Jorge Silva of Mexico (22-13-2, 18 KOs). Ali bullied the overwhelmed Silva the entire fight. Inexplicably, Silva dropped his hands and taunted Ali, who rewarded him with a vicious lights out punch.
“I’m on my bounce back, and this win is solidifying my status as one of the ones to be watching,” said Ali. “My opponent was tough, and he was able to play for a couple of rounds. However, this win over him is a step forward into the right direction to the goals I want to accomplish. I have heart, and I hope people can see that in the ring.”
Super featherweight prospect Lamont Roach Jr. of Washington DC (13-0, 5 KOs) remained undefeated with a first round stoppage of Alejandro Valdez of Mexico (26-9-2, 20 KOs). Roach knocked Valdez down with snapping rights to the chin; Valdez got up, and Roach finished him off with a wicked right body shot straight down the middle. Even if the right hand was Roach’s only weapon, the speed and accuracy were impressive. Roach now holds the WBC youth super featherweight belt.
“It feels good to be 21 with a title already, and this just lines up everything for a future world championship,” said Roach. “I got him to go down twice and he didn’t want to come back for a third.”
Hometown favorite Luis Coria of Indio (3-0, 3 KOs) put on a show for family and friends and maintained his perfect record and 100 percent knockout rate with a first round knockout of opponent Gerardo Molina of Mexico (1-4, 1 KO) at 2:51 of the round.
“This was a big night for me because it was my first time on an HBO card,” said Coria. “It was also huge because Lupillo Rivera walked with me, and that was humbling because he is this huge star. I do this for my family members who are the biggest fans and who always come out to support every fight.”
The middleweight bout between Tureano Johnson of the Bahamas and Antonio Gutierrez of Mexico was scratched when Johnson failed to make weight on Friday.
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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