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MIGUEL BERCHELT: EARNING HIS STRIPES

The WBC super-featherweight title has been held by some of boxing’s most illustrious champions. Alfredo Escalera, Alexis Arguello, Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Paquiao have all worn the green and gold belt of the Mexican based organisation. And with the title on the line, some of the above protagonists have featured in some of the most exciting fights in history. So the latest holder of the belt, Mexico’s own Miguel Berchelt, certainly has an array of inspiration to help fuel his own championship aspirations.

Born 17 November 1991 in Cancun, Berchelt took up boxing aged 15 just to improve his fitness for soccer. But his natural ability shone through as he became a three-time national champion. But having come to boxing fairly late, he decided to turn professional after just four years, making his debut on his 19th birthday, stopping one Armin Chan. Activity was the key to his learning and progression as he run off a further fourteen wins in just 18 months, exhibiting his natural power by stopping all but two of his opponents. His form impressed the WBC, earning him their accolade of Fighter of the Year for 2011.

Four stoppage wins on, including adding the WBC Youth intercontinental title, he faced his most experienced foe so far, going up against the former IBF featherweight champion Cristobal Cruz. Cruz had seen better days, but was still a good learning curve for the youngster. It was test Berchelt passed with flying colours, hammering Cruz for a fifth round stoppage.

But two fights later, things came to a shuddering halt when Berchelt was stopped in the first round by Luis Eduardo Florez. Seemingly in control, Berchelt was caught with a fast short right left hook combo, sending him down flat on his back. He arose quickly, but with his legs unsteady, the referee called a halt, with Berchelt protesting what he felt was a premature stoppage. It was a stunning setback, but fortunately it was a quick knockout and not a prolonged beating, the damage suffered being minimal.

He returned two months later, knocking out Armando Mariscal, before going on another run of stoppages, six in succession, including earning a top ten ranking with the WBO by capturing their NABO title, and putting him in line for a shot at their super-featherweight champion Roman “Rocky” Martinez. But Martinez became injured, and Berchelt was matched with Briton George Jupp for the “interim” title. It turned in to a painful night for Jupp as he was dropped three times before a one-sided contest was brought to an end after six rounds. Berchelt made one defence of his strap, a fourth round knockout of Suriya Tatakhun, before the opportunity to become a legitimate world champion presented itself.

Francisco Vargas was the reigning WBC super-featherweight champion. He had won the title from Takashi Miura, surviving a fourth round knockdown and a points deficit, before sensationally turning things around with a ninth round stoppage in the 2015 Fight of the Year. He then captured that accolade again in 2016, defending against fellow countryman and all round toughnut Orlando Salido, drawing over twelve fiercly contested rounds. One of those type of fights could add mileage to any career, but two could certainly take its toll, especially on a thirty two year old. Nevertheless, the unbeaten champion was expecting another torrid affair with many experts favouring the younger challenger.

And it turned out to be such. The pair exchanged leather frequently from the start, and after six rounds the fight was still close. But with Vargas sporting a vicious cut on his left eyelid and his right eye starting to swell too, Berchelt moved up a gear, his powerful combinations gradually pounding the resistance out of his brave opponent. With Vargas buckling and bleeding, the referee finally stepped in to rescue him during round eleven. Berchelt was declared the new world champion and it was a fitting coronation.

Now he aims to keep the tradition of fighting the toughest challengers going, starting with former champ Miura next month. That already has barnburner written all over it. Beyond that lay the rival belt holders Vasyl Lomachenko (WBO), Jezreel Corrales (WBA) and Gervonta Davis (IBF). Whilst pound for pound entrant Lomachenko seems light years ahead of so many, the other two champions would provide strong challenges, something it would appear Berchelt thrives on.

With his 5 feet 7 inch frame, a move to lightweight in the near future is also a possibility for this talented and tenacious fighter. But the feeling with Berchelt is that win, lose or draw, he is going to provide the fans with some memorable moments. And at the end of the day, that is what will keep us talking about the man they call “Alacran”, translation for Scorpion, for many years to come.

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