Sunday, July 16, 2017

Big Fight Review: Miguel Berchelt Shows Class In Retaining Title Against Rugged Takashi Miura


By Peter Silkov

Miguel Berchelt (32-1, 28koes) last night made a successful first defence of his WBC world super-featherweight title, with an unanimous points win over former champion Takashi Miura (31-4-2, 24koes) at The ‘Fabulous’ Forum, Inglewood, California. What was expected to be one of the ‘fights of the year’ turned out to be an exhibition in boxing speed and skills. Putting aside the all-action style that won him this title against Francisco Vargas in January, Berchelt instead chose to use his boxing skills against the rugged Miura, befuddling the challenger with movement, a persistent jab, and some sharp combinations. To his credit, Miura never stopped trying to press the fight, but time after time when he tried to land some telling punches, the elusive champion had already moved away. Miura, on the other hand, found it hard to avoid most of the champions punches, but once again showed his durability and heart, by taking it all with the stoicism of the hardened ring warrior. Despite the significant punishment that he had to endure in the course of the fight, Miura never looked on the verge of being stopped, despite being knocked down briefly in the first round.

It was clear from the beginning that this was going to be a tough night for the challenger. Although he recovered quickly from the first round knockdown, which was caused by a one-two combination to the right side of the challenger’s head, the difference in speed, freshness and boxing technique, had become evident by the end of the opening stanza. Berchelt showed maturity by not going after Miura following the knockdown, but rather instead sticking to a game plan of out-boxing the challenger. This tactic made what could have been a hard fight for Berchelt, almost routine at times. Miura was reduced to looking for a single shot to turn the tide as the rounds progressed, and when he did connect the force of his punches showed the wisdom behind the champion’s game plan. While the fight wasn’t the blood and bombs thriller people had expected, it remained an interesting spectacle. In the final three rounds Miura upped his attacks to the point of desperation and started landing more frequently with his hammer of a left hand. The visible effects of these shots on the champion, brief though they were, showed that Berchelt was indeed wise not to go into a toe-to-toe slugfest with his challenger.

Indeed the last round was the closest that the fight came to being a slugfest, as Berchelt decided to stand his ground, and brawl with Miura. This led to some exciting final exchanges, but the champion still landed more punches than he took, and ended the fight a clear and impressive winner. The final scores of the judges were 120-109, 119-108 and 116-111. While this victory did not match the excitement of his title winning triumph over Francisco Vargas, it was a very mature and impressive boxing display from Berchelt. ‘The Scorpion’ will now be looking to big fights with some of the other ‘world champions’ at super-featherweight.

One possible future opponent for Berchelt is the WBA world super-featherweight titleholder, Jazreel Corrales (22-1, 8koes). who retained his title in an entertaining support fight to Berchelt’s defence. Corrales retained his title with a tight 10-round technical decision over Robinson Castellanos (22-12, 14koes) after the fight had been called off, due to a severe cut underneath the challenger’s right eye, after an accidental head butt.

The fight itself was a gripping mixture of knockdowns, butts, cuts, and some lively exchanges. The champion, Corrales, a Panamanian having his first fight in America, showed some flashy boxing skills from his southpaw stance, and was certainly the superior boxer of the two, with significantly faster reflexes. The Mexican challenger was the puncher of the two and troubled the champion with his busy two-handed attacks. The fight followed the pattern of Corrales using his boxing skills to pot shot and stay elusive, while Castellanos looked to constantly stalk the champion and land his powerful combinations. Castellanos biggest mistake in this fight was that he didn’t stay busy enough and too often let Corrales dictate the pace with his boxing.

The fight looked like it was going the challengers way in the 4th round when he dropped Corrales twice, but the champion, who has been dropped in previous fights, came back well from this round and in the 7th stanza looked to have regained control of the fight when he dropped Castellanos.

The 8th and 9th rounds were close, but Corrales seemed to be winning them as displayed some athletic boxing skills to outland the challenger, who seemed to be waiting on his punches too much. In the 10th round, an accidental clash of heads significantly increased an already existing cut underneath the challengers right eye, and the ringside doctor called a halt to the fight. It was a disappointing end to what had been the fight of the night. Corrales retained his WBA world title with scores of 94-94, 94-93, and 96-92.

This narrow points defeat ended Robinson Castellanos’ ‘Rockylike’ rise to world title challenger after he went 10-10 in the first 20 fights of his professional career. This is one fighter who deserves another title shot.

On the bill’s undercard, at light-heavyweight, Joe Smith Jr. (23-2, 19koes) saw his world title hopes dealt a severe blow as he was comprehensively out-boxed and out-punched for most of his 10 round fight with Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14koes). Smith Jr’s only success came at the end of the first round when he landed one of his right hand bombs and dropped Barrera. However, Barrera recovered from the knockdown and took control of the fight from the second round onwards. Smith Jr. landed at times, but for the most part, was out-boxed, and out-manoeuvred by Barrera, who dished out some heavy punishment as the fight went on. It has been confirmed that Smith Jr. suffered a broken jaw early on in the fight. Hopefully he will return after this setback.

The scores were 97-92 (twice) and 96-93. Barrera should now be in line for a world title shot, but knowing the quirkiness of boxing politics, it would not be surprising to see Smith Jr. getting a title shot instead. 

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