By Ian S Palmer
Unbeaten Francisco Vargas of Mexico will be defending his WBC Super Featherweight title this Saturday, January 28th against fellow slugger and countryman Miguel Berchelt, who is the WBO Interim Champ. The bout will take place at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio California. It can be seen live in North America on HBO while fans in the UK can catch it live on BoxNation. This bout could be a fight of the year candidate if it lives up to its potential just like last year’s Vargas vs Orlando Salido clash in June, which ended in a majority draw. Berchelt’s last contest took place last July when he stopped Suriya Tatakhun in the fourth round.
The 31-year-old Vargas enters the ring with an almost perfect record of 23-0-2 along with 17 Kos. His 20-fight winning streak was snapped last summer when he drew with Salido. Vargas stands 5-feet-8-inches tall and has a 70-inch reach. He’s well known to boxing fans for his classic slugfests against both Salido and Takashi Miura of Japan in 2015 and this bout against Berchelt could end up being just as exciting. Vargas is a former Mexican Olympian who fought in the 2008 Games in Beijing, China and turned pro in 2010. He’s gone 114 rounds since then and has a knockout ratio of 68 per cent. His other draw was a four-round affair against Byron Gonzalez in 2010 in his fourth pro outing.
Vargas is comfortable using his boxing skills or going toe-to-toe and he’s never been beaten no matter what style he chooses to use. He stopped Juan Manuel Lopez in the third round back in 2014 and has also beaten some good opponents in Jerry Belmontes, Will Tomlinson and Abner Cotto. It’s hard to say how much energy the Miura and Salido fights sapped out of Vargas and he’s facing another never-say-die warrior in Berchelt on Saturday night. Berchelt has good experience and Vargas’ best option here may be to try and keep his distance and box him rather than get caught up in a brawl.
Berchelt is 25 years old and has a fine record of 30-1 with 27 Kos. He turned pro back in 2010 and has 99 rounds under his belt. He’s an inch shorter than the champion at 5-foot-7, but has an inch reach advantage at 71 inches. Berchelt’s record shows that he has quite a bit of power and his current knockout ratio is an impressive 87 per cent. His lone loss was a first-round TKO at the hands of Luis Florez in 2014. Berchelt’s best wins have been against George Jupp, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Escalante, Carlos Reyes and Cristobal Cruz.
Vargas is the favourite, but it’s hard to tell what he has left in the tank after two straight wars. This should be an exciting fight with both guys giving and taking and leaving nothing in the ring. There’s no point in trying to analyze it as there likely won’t be too many boxing tactics involved as each man goes for a stoppage. There could be a knockdown or two along the way to make things even more dramatic. Vargas’ experience should be enough for him to keep his belt and probably by stoppage.