On Saturday boxing fans can enjoy a treat from Golden Boy, with three fantastically poised bouts each bringing intrigue and unpredictability.
The only predictable side of this tripleheader is that this will be one of the most enjoyable boxing cards of the year.
The first of two world title bouts is a mouth-watering affair between Mexican boxer-puncher, Miguel Berchelt and Japanese slugger Takashi Miura.
Miura 31-3-2(24KO’s) is the former WBC Super Featherweight champion, and looks to reclaim it against the conqueror of his former world title foe.
Miura’s late 2015 war with Francisco Vargas was brutal, with Miura ahead by the slimmest of margins, before Vargas forced an assault that ended the fight right there and then in the 9th.
But Vargas’ reign was short lived. Drawing with Orlando Salido in June last year before he was ousted by Berchelt in January.
It was another close-run fight, before Berchelt spectacularly halted Vargas in round 11, having shown many different levels to his game prior.
Miura has spent many years pummelling the best 130lb fighters with his relentless attacks, but defence has always been a sticking point, and against the smart work of Berchelt, he looks likely to be in for a rough night.
Berchelt 31-1 (28KO’s) has passed an acid test before – and has indeed tasted a stoppage defeat – but his experience is somewhat limited compared with Miura’s.
(Highlights of Berchelt vs Vargas from January 2017 via HBO YouTube):
The strong belief is that Miura’s only chance is to force a stoppage from behind on the scorecards.
Berchelt should have too much in the bag for most of the 12 rounds, but the going will get tough once again as we pass the opening couple of rounds.
Miura will be consistently chasing the contest, while Berchelt works from the outside, catching the odd punch flush, but responding instantaneously.
This won’t be a one-sided contest – far from it – but Berchelt should be three or four rounds clear by the time the fight ends.
That finish can come just prior to the championship rounds, as a tired Miura is brought down by a body assault in the 10th.
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The other Super Featherweight title showdown, sees WBA ruler Jezreel Corrales make the second defence of his title, the first out of Japan.
That is not because the Panamanian fights out of Japan – in fact all his non-world title bouts came in Panama – but because Corrales both won and defended the crown against Japan’s former pound-for-pound star Taskashi Uchiyama.
Uchiyama had owned the belt since 2010, but with ruthless efficiency Corrales ripped it away with a second round KO.
The reverse was different, but aside from a flash knockdown, Corrales 21-1(8KO’s) dominated the majority of the contest. His sharp shooting and switch-hitting from the outside was hard for Uchiyama to fathom, and by the time he began to make some headway, it was too late.
The final result was a split decision, but that was certainly kind on the Japanese fighter.
Uchiyama may have been bemused by Corrales’ elusive style, but Robinson Castellanos 24-12(14KO’s) most certainly will not.
The 36-fight veteran has overcome a tumultuous start to his career, before an 11-fight winning streak seemed to have him back on the right track.
However, defeats to Rene Alvarado and Oscar Escandon inside the distance seemed to have erased what wins over Ronny Rios and Celestino Caballero had done.
But a stoppage of the fading Yuriokis Gamboa at Lightweight has afforded the Mexican the most well deserved of world title opportunities.
The former Cuban standout was floored several times, before retiring on his stool, but one must note that the inconsistent Gamboa played perfectly into Castellanos’ hands.
But fortune did not go Robinson’s way when he was stopped by Oscar Escandon. A nasty head clash early on, left Castellanos will a broken nose.
Struggling with breathing, Castellanos was stopped, but the fight had been swung significantly in Escandon’s favour following the head clash:
This fight feels as though it possesses more of the unknown for everyone watching.
Castellanos is a quality pressure fighter, but much of his contests have seen his opponent willing to stand in the pocket with him.
Will chasing Corrales around the ring, combined with so many brutal wars, catch up with the Mexican at some stage?
Or will Corrales – who seemed to tire in the very latter stages of the Uchiyama rematch – come unstuck under such constant and consistent pressure from Castellanos?
Fate suggests that it will be Castellanos’ night, but the head is going with the better boxing of Corrales to prevail. Castellanos would be unwise to charge in early when it seems Corrales is most dangerous with his counter-punching.
Robinson can close the gap as the fight enters the second half, but amidst those scrappy exchanges, Corrales will produce the more quality work to take this one on points.
Fresh off an epic 2016, Joe Smith returns to close in on a title shot with WBC Light Heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
Many fighters are aiming for the Canadian, including Sullivan Barrera who looks to redeem himself after a one-sided loss to pound-for-pound number 1, Andre Ward.
Smith 23-1(19KO’s) stopped Andrzej Fonfara in one round of a thrilling contest, before becoming the first man to stop Bernard Hopkins – the man who finally met father time in the ring that night.
But Barrera 19-1(14KO’s) scored his own impressive win last year, when he KO’d Vyacheslav Shabranskky in a crucial contest, fresh off defeat to Ward.
Smith is an improving fighter, but he does not have anywhere near the smooth skills of Ward, therefore his head strong fighting style will suit the hard-hitting Cuban more.
This could be the closest off all three fights to call, but the tentative pick is for one man to prevail inside the distance.
Smith could have the upper hand early, jolting Sullivan back as he looks to find gaps to the body.
Barrera’s early body work should begin to take its toll in the second half of the fight.
There will be very little room given by either man, but Barrera is likely to lead Smith on, allowing himself to increase the force of his punches.
Smith’s best work will come on the inside, where he can trouble Barrera.
But the more seasoned fighter can catch Smith flush, hurt and quickly finish his opponent somewhere around the 9th round.