LOS ANGELES, July 14, 2017 – While the combat sports world’s attention is diverted by a sideshow, HBO’s Boxing After Dark tripleheader promises plenty of action to please every fight fan on Saturday from The Forum in Los Angeles beginning at 9:50 p.m. ET.
The main event is already on the short list for “Fight of the Year” in 2017, and it hasn’t even taken place. When you have proven warriors like WBC World Super Featherweight champion Miguel “El Alacran” (The Scorpion) Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) facing a proven performer like the tough Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs), it’s as good a guarantee in boxing as it gets.
Berchelt went toe to toe with Mexico’s Francisco Vargas last December, winning the WBC belt he took from Miura and defended against Orlando Salido with an 11th round stoppage in the 2016 Fight of the Year. Truthfully, the fight should have been stopped several rounds prior, but Vargas is a refuse to say die kind of boxer.
In turn, Vargas won the belt from Miura in their thrilling 2015 Fight of the Year. Miura made a solid comeback against veteran Miguel “Mickey” Roman of Mexico on the Berchelt vs. Vargas undercard.
If your heart isn’t pounding at the thought of this matchup, you should stop reading right now and find something else to do Saturday, like finish organizing your Tupperware.
“I am very well prepared. I know I have a very good, strong, former world champion ahead of me,” said Berchelt. “Takashi Miura is a typical Japanese kamikaze that is coming with everything. That’s why I prepared myself very well. I respect him tremendously, and I know it’s a great fight on both sides. I am going to give my Mexican people a great show, and take my belt back home.”
“I consider myself a world champion, and fighting Takashi Miura is a way to prove that I am the best in my class. Some of my advantages include my height, the fact that I haven’t been in many wars, and my youth.”
Berchelt believes he has the advantage as the younger, “hungrier” fighter. Berchelt is 25; Miura is 33. He said he’s keeping his fight plan simple: win round by round.
“I will show the crowd that not only can I box, but that I can keep my energy through the rounds. Fighting with intelligence is key-you can be in a war but if you’re not smart with how you land your punches it won’t benefit you or help you win,” said Berchelt.
Miura admitted his loss to Francisco Vargas in 2015 was rough for him, but he has pushed past that disappointment. “After my last loss, I became depressed for a couple of months. I thought I wouldn’t be able to come back to the level that I once was. However, boxing is everything to me, and I couldn’t just walk away.
“I have more heart than Berchelt. I want this more than I want anything. I am expecting a war because I know he won’t want to give up his belt that easy. But I want it back. If there’s a possibility to unify the titles, I will, if the opportunity is there. Our division is known for a lot of wars.”
Berchelt is the more active puncher in the ring, and he’s also a powerful featherweight. When Miura stays disciplined, he has the better jab and can frustrate an opponent. Miura can’t afford to lose, and if he’s hungry enough, he can be dangerous. Both have an impressive power punching percentage, and both can take a punch. However it plays out, it will be competitive to the end, between two athletes who never back down and never say die.
We’re calling this one for Berchelt, but he’ll have to work extremely hard against Miura for his late round stoppage.
The official co-main event with the WBA Super World Super Featherweight championship at stake promises plenty of excitement. Jezreel “El Invisible” Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs) of Panama makes his American debut against the surprising Robinson “Robin Hood” Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs) on Mexico.
Don’t let Castellanos’ record fool you. He won the right to face Corrales with a shocking beat down of Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa with a seventh round stoppage win in May in Las Vegas. The vast majority of his losses came early in his career, and he’s won 14 of his last 16 fights.
“This is literally a dream come true,” said Castellanos. “I remember a couple years back, my father and I were watching Yuriorkis Gamboa fight, and we were breaking him down, and we talked about how we would try to win. Who would have thought that years later we would have been able to accomplish that? Who knows what is next? I am thankful for the opportunity, and I am excited to show everyone what I am capable of.”
Corrales was a significant underdog in Japan against WBA Super Featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama. delivered one of those “shock the world” performances with a stunning second round knockout, then won the rematch in a split decision in 2016. “I’ve always been confident in my training. They call me ‘El Invisible’ because you can’t see me in the ring when I’m moving,” said Corrales. “I feel very happy, very motivated, and very positive for the opportunity that has been presented to me. I’m here with a lot of energy, and to give this victory to my mother.”
Similar to the Berchelt vs. Miura fight, we have the younger, stronger champion in Corrales at age 26 versus the battle-tested veteran capable of surprises at age 35. This is Corrales’ chance to prove he’s the real deal. Castellanos is undisciplined and wild in the ring in the best possible sense, throwing wild looping punches that find a way to land. It’s why he’s fun to watch and why he’s always got a chance of winning. But if Corrales doesn’t let Castellanos tempt him, he should be able to tame him and prevail.
Opening the HBO telecast, WBC International light heavyweight champion Joe Smith, Jr. (23-1, 19 KOs) of Long Island, New York returns to the ring after his stunning win over veteran Bernard Hopkins in December to face Sullivan Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) of Miami via Cuba.
Smith Jr., who was working as a union laborer, knocked out Andrzej Fonfara, then followed it up with another stoppage against Hopkins, tossing him completely out of the ring in a fight ending the 50 year old veteran champion’s career. Smith Jr. has been able to making boxing his full time career.
“Since my last fight, everyone recognizes me more. I’ve been working on continuing my journey towards becoming a world champion,” said Smith Jr. Everyone can stop asking whether Smith Jr. is “the real deal” or just a flash in the pan. Two significant wins in a row have demonstrated Smith Jr.’s power, ability to control the ring, and his uncanny way of spotting openings and taking advantage of them.
Smith possesses the same unusual ability that made Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn the best hitter of his generation. Both are able to see and assess what’s coming toward them with exceptional clarity, almost as if a pitch or a punch is happening in slow motion. “In my fight with Barrera, we’re just all going to have to see what Saturday brings,” said Smith.
Coming off a loss to Andre Ward in March, Barrera relocated himself back in Miami, and home cooking served him well. In December, te delivered a spectacular seventh round knockout of well regarded Vylacheslav Shabranskyy, knocking him down three times in the process while surviving a knockdown of his own. Barrera since won a tune-up fight against undefeated prospect Paul Parker.
Barrera’s career has new life at age 35. “Joe Smith, Jr. is very good; he has power, but I have power too. I think I have a lot more experience than him, and I’m his biggest challenge yet.”
The Cuban immigrant has additional motivation for a great performance. “This fight is very meaningful for me,” said Barrera. “My father has come all the way from Cuba to watch me. It’s been eight years since I have seen him, and this will be the first time he will see me fight professionally. I’m thankful to Golden Boy and HBO for another opportunity. Joe Smith, Jr. is a great fighter, and I am looking forward to a great fight this Saturday.”
RING TV will offer live streaming of the non-televised portion of the card. In two quality lightweight bouts, Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (30-1-2, 16 KOs) of San Diego via the Philippines will run up against Martin “El Brochas” Honorio (33-10-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico, and Ryan “Kingry” Garcia (9-0, 8 KOs) of Victorville, California will go up against Mario Macias (27-21-1, 14 KOs) of Mexico. Also, Manny “Chato” Robles Jr. (12-0, 4 KOs), of California, son of the well-regarding trainer, will step up his competition against Juan “El Peñita” Jimenez (23-12, 16 KOs) of Mexico.
Bernard Hopkins, future Hall of Famer and Golden Boy Promotions business partner, put the event into perspective for the younger fighters.
“It is a privilege to be in a historic place like this, and be a part of this scene,” said Hopkins. “You have guys who have the opportunity to break into the light heavyweight division that is wide open right now. I want to speak to my young fighters, this is your opportunity to steal the spotlight. I challenge the young fighters to steal the spotlight from the big guys, in the future, they can be your best promoter. This is the hurt business, so be there to watch this Saturday.”
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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