The resplendent coastline of Quintana Roo fights its own battles, going toe-to-toe with nature in the muggy, Mexican Autumn. Battered by sporadic hurricanes, its tumultuous tussle with the elements has been personified by its latest sporting icon.
A young man raised by a single mother in Cancun, current WBC super-featherweight champion Miguel ‘El Alacrán’ Berchelt (33-1, 29 KO’s) is prepared to stamp his own authority on boxing’s landscape.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Berchelt, the young man dubbed ‘The Scorpion’. In recent years, he’d seen fights come-and-go since capturing the interim WBO world championship against Greenwich-born George Jupp. A criminal charge for domestic abuse at aged just twenty-years-old, and a surprise knockout loss to a boxer named Luis Florez had tripped up the young fighter on his path to glory.
However, when talking to him exclusively for Boxing Social, I found his story inspiring and uplifting when considering the adolescence of many South American youth.
“I was born in Quintana Roo, Cancun, without a doubt one of the best tourist destinations worldwide! It’s known for its beautiful beaches and I’m originally from Region 93′, a mid-level area. I lived there with my mother and my two sisters.”
I had a look at Berchelt’s region, his surroundings. I was taken aback by images of grey, grafitti-coated buildings starkly juxtaposed with white sand and cocktail bars only a few kilometres away. The images of suburban Quintana Roo were lit up with ambulances and police tape, yet down at the beach it seemed all ‘volleyball and palm trees’.
Berchelt carried on, “As a child, I worked to earn my own [money] and to help my mother, as she was a single parent. I was the man of the house. I used to install point of sale terminal machines [for work], you know, the ones you would use to pay with your card?”
It was hard for me to comprehend, Miguel toiling as a child of fourteen in the searing heat in order to pay his mother’s bills. The work ethic was admirable, whilst his respect and love for his family never seemed in doubt. In Mexico, fighters can turn professional as young as fifteen, throwing jabs whilst still learning who they’ll become as men.
“I finished high school and when it was over, truthfully, I just never saw myself in an office. Rather, I never saw myself as an ’employee’. I decided that I needed to fulfil my dream of becoming a world champion. I was sixteen-years-old [when I started fighting].
I was motivated by the idea of becoming the second world champion from my state and of course, to start helping my family as a boxer. Quintana Roo at that time, only had one world champion. Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Lopez was the only one and I said as a child, ‘I want to be the second World champion of the state and make history!'”
Rich in boxing history, Mexico has long been renowned for its young professional champions, seemingly placing little value on high-level amateur pedigree. Fighters such as Canelo Alvarez were never present on Olympic rosters, yet have continued to dominate in exciting, blockbuster events. He told me of his heros growing up on the coast, throwing in names such as Juan Manuel Marquez and Julio Cesar Chavez; Berchelt was of the same mould.
‘El Alacran’ is ranked number one on the planet by BoxRec at 130lbs, a division which has seen world titles change hands briskly in recent years. Albert Machado, the Puerto Rican WBA ‘regular’ champion remains something of an unknown quantity, whilst the same governing bodies ‘super’ champion has been grabbing headlines from a young age.
“Gervonta [Davis] is a good fighter. As a person… I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t know him. That would be a good fight and I am trained, waiting in my office for the call! As soon as they [Gervonta’s team] call us, we would take this fight – without even thinking! I will continue to fight at 130lbs until the body can no longer do it anymore. Then, and only then, will I think about moving up to 135lbs!”
It had been over four years since Miguel had lost his only fight. He’d been taken to the judges scorecards only once, since. Eleven stoppages from twelve victories had shown a ruthless sting in the tail of the scorpion. His two most impressive performances had come against former World champions Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas, further solidifying his place at boxing’s top table.
He faces Jonathan Barros on June 23rd, telling me this camp had been the same as always – ‘perfect’.
Barros had faced Lee Selby on British shores at featherweight in his last contest, however Berchelt never gave him a second thought. I wondered how his lone defeat had affected him mentally, as it had ostensibly acted as a catalyst for his destructive, recent form.
“Sure, I lost. But Ali lost, Tyson lost, Pacquiao lost, Marquez lost and Chavez also lost! All the big ones. But only the true champions get up to fight again. Boxing has always been important in Mexico and we have had more than 150 World champions. Mexico is considered a worldwide force.
When you sing a Mexican anthem somewhere in the world and you know that a Mexican is fighting, [win, lose or draw] you know that a show is guaranteed!”
Berchelt enters the bout with Barros an overwhelming favourite, though the bigger fights aren’t far away, with potential unifications on the horizon.
His Mexican pride was evident as he discussed looking to put on exciting fights every time he stepped through the ropes. With Tevin Farmer facing Billy Dib for the vacant IBF world title and the WBO world title still kicking up dust from Vasyl Lomachenko’s reign, ‘The Scorpion’ will be looking to clear out space on his mantlepiece for some additional treasure.
Still in his prime, Miguel has years to cement his legacy amongst the biggest names in Mexican pugilism. How he progresses that career will depend upon promoters and marketability as it always does, but his fan-friendly style should allow for some exhilarating bouts at the division’s pinnacle. He’s had to overcome hardships, bounce back from defeat and skip a childhood most of us enjoy at our leisure, in order to follow his dreams.
From spending time getting to know him, it was clear that boxing was his compass. Regardless of torrid weather, Miguel Berchelt was stuck firmly in the eye of the storm. No noise. No disruption. An odd sense of calm, centred in the struggle. He had become a stronger man through the sport, now looking to leave a devastating legacy of his own.
“Of course I would like to be remembered infinitely! I would like to give many glories to my country of Mexico and to be remembered as Lopez, Chavez, Morales and Barrera!”
Article by: Craig Scott
You can follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209