Francisco Vargas vs Miguel Berchelt & Takashi Miura vs Miguel Roman
BY KID HERSH
From Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio California came HBO World Championship Boxing that had two absolutely amazing matchups in the super featherweight class.
First up was Takashi Miura (30-3-2, 23KO's) vs Miguel Roman (56-11, 43KO's). The referee was Thomas Taylor. In the first round both fighters were very cautious of their opponent, and Roman was really far out of range for most of the round. Both men were cautious in the opening minutes of the second round but the fight was heating up as the second round went on. By the end of the second round both men were trading punches while standing toe-to-toe in the type of fight I was expecting to see break out where at any moment either man was open for a flush power shot to land! In the third round Miura was waiting on Roman, who seemed like he was really hurrying his punches and the fight itself in an attempt to overtake the action. Miura was taking small steps back and landing punches on Roman - both to the body and the head. By the end of the third round Roman was breathing very heavily from the mouth, which would be surprising if he was starting to gas but no doubt more so than that it was his nerves and anxious rush he was putting on the fight. In the fourth round Roman was again really hurrying the action while Miura was picking his punches and landing the harder shots but waiting on his opponent thus far. Roman was rushing his punches ands being overly aggressive while Miura was picking his punches and seeming the veteran thus far, although Roman has buzzed Miura once or twice but overall Miura is handling his power to this point. Roman came on strong in the fifth round by coming forward like he has been in the previous rounds but he blunted Miura's work rate with excellent body punching and by getting off his punches first to keep Miura covered up. By the end of the round Miura's right eye was looking pretty battered and like it may be a problem in the fight. Miura continued pressing in the sixth round and having more success while outworking Miura like in the previous round, but Miura still has an aura of calm surrounding him while Roman is super nervous and expending a lot of energy. In the seventh round Miura came out throwing bombs, loading up on everything while looking to hurt Roman. He was throwing so hard that he had loud grunts with every single punch. Miura was able to turn the tide of the fight, with Roman having it going his favor in the last few rounds but taking severe damage in the seventh. Miura is really a rare warrior though - showing that you have to break him down, completely physically, because you will not break his will and heart EVER. In the eighth round early on Taylor stopped the action to take a look at a head butt early on but as the round went on it became apparent that the fight was turning into a case of two fatigued fighters that have both beaten each other up but both really wanted to press their advantage and win the fight at nearly any cost. The accidental head butts were mounting up, with Roman on the worse receiving end of cuts. He was also showing more frustration with the clashes of heads that to me looked like a sign that he might not want to be in there anymore by the time the ninth round came around. Miura was really pressing his will on the fight as the later rounds came on, with it most evident in the ninth round as he slammed home power punches despite being very fatigued. He was also pressing Roman backwards, with Romans body language showing a beaten up and slightly frustrated fighter. Despite that, he was still throwing quite a few punches and landing good shots in return but he was not warding off Miura's relentless will. The tenth round was a real war of attrition between two beaten up warriors. Miura was still getting the better of it, and at the very end of the round he feinted a left upstairs but landed a brutal left shot to the body of Roman. The shot crumpled him to the canvas and looked like it was going to keep him there but he rose at the count of eight suddenly, beating the count and showing great heart in doing so. He looked like a badly beaten fighter in between rounds though with his facial expressions and body language as his coach was imploring him to breath deep and wake up, even calling him a bitch at one point no doubt in an attempt to get a reaction out of him but he was just very badly beaten in this war. Despite this, Roman continued fighting and even fought his way through a knockdown midway through the eleventh round when Miura has him on the ropes and unloaded a combination that put him down - likely more from exhaustion than anything else. Roman rose though and fought on - with Miura unloading his gas tank (we already thought it was on empty!) and continued beating Roman around the ring. Early in the twelfth round Miura landed a short left hand to the chin of Roman that took his legs out from under him, sending him to the canvas where he would not be able to rise from. Just like Max Kellerman said; this is a great example of a real world champion defending his belt against a very good contender in an era where lots of people hold belts. I agree, this was a real war - it had an old school feel even down to excellent refereeing because Roman was given every chance to continue when perhaps other referees may have stopped the fight earlier or handled it differently. A true war of attrition here tonight.
The main event featured Francisco Vargas (23-0-2, 17KO's) vs Miguel Berchelt (30-1, 27KO's). Raul Caiz Jr was the referee. In the first round Berchelt was slow to start but very aggressive to end the round and was landing punches from being the first to throw. Vargas may have taken the round off of work rate though because Berchelt did not do much for the first half of the first round, not even unloading a single right hand until the second half of the round. Vargas was slow yet and waiting on his opponent while looking to counter. Berchelt had a lot of excited energy and Vargas took advantage of that in the second round as the men traded punches back and forth, with Vargas coming on strong early on but Berchelt coming back and landing his best shots before the round ended with both fighters hurt each other in the final minute of the second round. We got ourselves a fight! Both men were trading their shots while Jim Lampley was comparing them to Israel Vazquez vs Rafael Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera vs Erik Morales. The difference to my eyes so far is that Berchelts hands are clearly heavier and doing more damage when they trade punches. In the fourth round Berchelt went to work and landed what might normally fight ending punches as Vargas really slowed down and had to go into the next gear to make it through the round, hurting Berchelt in return with body shots to slow the onslaught he started. Berchelt slowed down after landing the good punches early on but he was doing serious damage to Vargas now, causing blood to flow from both of his eyes. Vargas had the look of a true veteran and champion though, as he dug deep and showed his experience while staving Berchelt off from the onslaught that looked like what would normally be fight ending punches. Vargas played a great mental game int he fifth round - pressing forward while Berchelt gave ground and looked like he was realizing just what type of a fight he was in. It was that type of a fight! Berchelt came on strong in the coming rounds while Vargas was fighting back but coming up short due to being a outgunned. Vargas had the look of the beaten up, bloody aging warrior that has had perhaps one fight too many we are finding out right now. Either that, or Berchelt is the next all action power punching star - which it would appear that both the aforementioned statements could perhaps be true. The fight took on a demeanor of the slow and painful beating of a great action star (Vargas) where the new (Berchelt) was ushering out the old. But it was not a graceful transition, as Vargas's eyes held gaping cuts from the previous fights of the year as blood streamed across his face and his body was red everywhere from the power punching youngster. In the ninth round Vargas was looking completely outgunned as the younger and fresher man was just too much for the veteran, who was getting hit from every angle and bleeding from both eyes but his left eye in particular was spewing blood like a geyser after a Berchelt right hand smashed his face up like a baker kneeding dough. The fight continued but everyone was questioning if it should be stopped in the championship rounds, as Vargas was bleeding and swollen from the eyes with his face entirely disfigured and people wondering if he would be able to pull something out of the bag as he is a fighter of the year that has managed to somehow miraculously come back from the brink numerous times in the past. Even the referee Raul Caiz Jr was covered with blood as if he was working in a slaughterhouse. Vargas somehow managed to make it through the tenth round despite the avalanche (as Kellerman aptly called it) of punches from Berchelt that were reigning down on him. Berchelts punches still had a lot of power and snap in them, showing that despite never going more than six rounds in his career he was entirely ready for this stage and this fight with a full tank of stamina. Berchelt would finally get the stoppage win in the eleventh round, being the first man to stop Bandido.