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Vargas vs Berchelt: Fight preview and analysis

HBO is back with a doubleheader on Saturday, featuring two fights at 130 pounds.

Takashi Miura v Francisco Vargas Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Francisco Vargas vs Miguel Berchelt

Francisco Vargas

Francisco Vargas v Orlando Salido Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Record: 23-0-2 (17 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 70” ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Vargas deserves to be the clear favorite in this fight, but how is he right now, really? He’s 32, and though he hadn’t taken much punishment in his career otherwise, his last two fights with Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido have been wars, the sort of fights that can shorten a prime dramatically.

He rallied to stop Miura in an instant classic in November 2015, then got out with a draw last June against Salido at the StubHub Center in another war. He’s potentially taking a step back in opposition against Berchelt, but we don’t really know a lot about Berchelt yet, at least not at a higher level. We know he has some power. And Vargas might simply be a little shopworn after two hard fights.

That’s what makes this fight most intriguing, I think. We have to find out not just what Berchelt really has, but if Vargas is still the same fighter — or close to it — that came into the ring against Miura, before all hell broke loose and everyone’s face got busted up and whatnot.

Either way, it’s great to see Vargas rewarded with another HBO main event. He’s earned it, if anyone has. It’s also nice to see HBO with a fight not on pay-per-view for now.

Miguel Berchelt

Miguel Berchelt v Carlos Claudio Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Record: 30-1 (27 KO) ... Streak: W9 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 71" ... Age: 25

Thoughts: Back in 2014, Berchelt was stopped in 1:39 by Luis Eduard Florez, a fairly nondescript Colombian fighter who was 15-1 at the time, and has gone on to lose to Jamel Herring, Regis Prograis, and Sharif Bogere. Now 22-5, Florez’s win over Berchelt is his only win outside of his home country.

How much does that mean? Perhaps little, perhaps nothing. But while Berchelt has gone on to win nine straight fights, the level of opposition is really nothing to get excited about, with his best wins coming against Antonio Escalante, Rene Gonzalez, and, most recently, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, a Thai fighter with a gaudy record but one who is also 0-3 in fights against serious competition.

Still, Berchelt did with Chris John and Vasyl Lomachenko did not against Chonlatarn: he stopped him, knocking him out in the fourth round. And there’s no doubt that Berchelt can punch and that he can fight at least a little bit, but there’s a level he hasn’t been to, and we’ll see what he does there on Saturday.

Matchup Grade: B. This could be a great battle, it could potentially be an upset, or Vargas might smash an undercooked challenger. Action potential is good, and that’s the best thing about the fight on paper.

Takashi Miura vs Mickey Roman

Takashi Miura

Takashi Miura v Francisco Vargas Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Record: 30-3-2 (23 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'6½" / 70" ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Not long ago, Miura was seen as the No. 2 man in the 130-pound division, behind only countryman Takashi Uchiyama. A lot has happened in the last year and change, and Uchiyama is now something of an also-ran, while Miura is still trying to recover from his 2015 loss to Vargas.

Last year, Miura fought just once, knocking out Jimmy Borbon in the first round on May 7 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. It wasn’t a substantial win, but it got him back in action and hopefully, for his sake, brought back some confidence.

His loss to Vargas was a damaging fight, there’s no question about that. And when you look back on his run as WBC super featherweight champ, it doesn’t look all that special. He beat Gamaliel Diaz for the title in 2013, then defended against Sergio Thompson, Dante Jardon (the last man to beat his upcoming opponent, for what it’s worth), Edgar Puerta, and Billy Dib, before losing the war with Vargas.

The question is, at 32, how much of Miura is really left, and does he have it in him again to dig down deep if Mickey Roman forces a brawl?

Mickey Roman

Record: 56-11 (43 KO) ... Streak: W18 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'5” / N/A ... Age: 31

Thoughts: Miguel “Mickey” Roman is just shy of 14 years as a professional boxer, having turned pro at the age of 17 in 2003. Right now, he’s on a terrific run and seems to have come into his own, winning his last 18 fights to push himself to 56 career wins against 11 losses.

The 11 losses isn’t such a bad thing, and shouldn’t give you the indication that Roman can’t fight.

That’s not to say, either, that Roman has been taking down world beaters, mind you. A lot of his wins during this streak have maybe not been gimmes, but fairly close to it, the highlights coming against Juan Carlos Salgado in 2013 and Daniel Ponce De Leon in 2014. Ponce De Leon has never fought again, and was coming off of a loss to Juan Manuel Lopez, and Salgado was coming off of a loss to Argenis Mendez, and has since lost four more fights in a row. In other words, even the bigger names, he caught them at the right time.

Most troubling about Roman’s record is the fact that his losses have come again his better opponents, almost exclusively. The good news for him is that they stopped in 2012, and he’s developed his game — he developed many times in defeat.

The one true upside about Roman is he can be a very exciting fighter. He’s a puncher who’s at his best in a firefight, and Miura can be goaded into that.

Matchup Grade: B-. It’s not a great fight, but there’s action potential and the winner will likely get a shot at the winner of the main event. This is a perfectly solid premium network co-feature on a show like this.

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