On Saturday night, WBC World super featherweight champion, Miguel ‘El Alacran’ Berchelt, returns to the ring to make the fourth defence of his title against compatriot and mandatory challenger, Miguel ‘Mickey’ Román. When you pit two Mexicans with knockout power and a track record of being in exciting fights against each other, sparks are bound to fly and this should be an action-packed affair for as long as it lasts.
Miguel Berchelt announced his arrival as a world-class fighter at 130 pounds when he wrested the WBC title from another Mexican warrior, Francisco Vargas, in a slugfest featuring over 2000 combined punches thrown and nearly 800 landed. Berchelt entered the fight as the betting underdog, but outboxed the older man and beat him down for a 11th round TKO victory. He then outclassed still-dangerous former champion Takashi Miura over the distance in his first defence, consolidating his status as one of the division’s best. Straightforward stoppage victories over late replacement Maxwell Awuku and faded former titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros followed. Román should prove a much tougher nut to crack.
Berchelt is primarily an offensive, come-forward fighter with dynamite in his fists, as 30 KOs from 34 career wins indicate, but does not attack with thoughtless abandon. His punch variety, accuracy and ability to control range proved decisive factors against the experienced duo of Vargas and Miura. He works off the jab well and deploys good ring movement. His sole career defeat – caught cold in the first round by unheralded Columbian Luis Eduardo Florez back in 2014 – raised questions over his punch resistance, but that reversal is looking more and more like an aberration. Against Vargas and Miura, neither of whom is feather-fisted, he took good shots to the head and body and took them well. One suspects he will need every bit of toughness as well as skill to overcome the challenge he faces on Saturday.
Mickey Román is a young veteran at 32 years of age with 72 professional fights under his belt. Nothing has ever been given to him in his long, hard career; every opportunity he has earned the hard way. He has already fought twice for world titles, losing a decision at featherweight against Barros in 2011 and being stopped by a much bigger Antonio DeMarco at lightweight in 2012. Expect him to be heavily-motivated for what realistically could be his last shot at a world title. Although he has 12 career defeats on his record, the DeMarco fight marks one of only two occasions on which he was stopped. The other came last year in 2017 in a world title eliminator against Miura, in which both fighters took unholy punishment before Miura wore down Román with body shots and finally knocked him out in the 12th round.
That brutal fight-of-the-year candidate showed that there is zero quit in Román. He’s slow, one-dimensional and he can be hurt, but he is inhumanly tough and seemingly no amount of pain can deter him. You have to knock him out cold otherwise he will be in your face all night. Just two fights after the heartbreak of the Miura loss he faced Orlando Salido, the quintessential hard-charging, hard-nosed Mexican warrior, and beat him at his own game, becoming the first man in 17 years to stop the veteran in another savage war. On Saturday night however, he will face a younger and much fresher man.
With Mexican pride at stake, Berchelt and Román have engaged in fighting talk which has intensified as 3rd November approaches. Both men have promised a knockout victory. One senses that it is Román’s only chance of emerging with his hand raised on Saturday. He cannot outbox the champion who, in addition to being the more skilled fighter, enjoys significant height and reach advantages over his stocky challenger. In fact, Berchelt is probably also the bigger puncher in this contest, though Román is no slouch with 47 career knockouts of his own. Yet, it was Berchelt’s versatility and ring smarts which were the difference against the two best opponents he has faced so far in his career. Expect this fight to follow a similar path. Berchelt will be made to work hard against a tough and game foe and he may have to navigate some hairy moments, but expect him to pull away in the second half of the fight for a unanimous decision or even a late stoppage.
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam