Tonight, HBO’s latest edition of its Boxing After Dark series reminded us that boxing is a blood sport. The stars of the card, Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas, shared the ring in 2015 and delivered a consensus Fight of the Year. This time, they were engaged in battle with younger, less accomplished foes. But instead of delivering showcase performances, both veterans gave the sport a pound of their flesh in savage, bloody affairs.
MIURA KO12 ROMAN: This was 12 rounds of PAIN. Miura did great work to the body but was still hurt badly several times in the early rounds. Defense wasn’t a priority for either fighter and the fight started to favor Roman in the middle rounds. Miura looked exhausted and close to being stopped as Roman increased his combinations. But showing his heart, Miura hung tough and kept pounding away at the body.
Roman On The Attack in Round 5 #MiuraRoman pic.twitter.com/xrwwSyiY7D
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) January 29, 2017
The body assault’s effectiveness manifested in the late rounds. Roman was visibly slowed by the shots in the ninth and put on his knees in the 10th by a slashing left hook. He beat the count, but for the remaining roounds Roman was simply outgunned by the surging former champion. A barrage of punches on the ropes put Roman down again in the 11th, and two southpaw lefts floored Roman for good in the 12th.
BERCHELT UPSETS VARGAS: There’s a good chance tonight was the end of Francisco Vargas as a top fighter. On the surface, that might sound strange when talking about a fighter who just suffered his first defeat. But the brutality of the 32-year-old Vargas’ last three fights against Miura, Salido and now Berchelt is more punishment than most fighters endure of their entire careers.
Against Berchelt, a fighter who was unproven at the elite level, Vargas looked slow. He couldn’t keep his head away from Berchelt’s straight right nor his left hook, which produced constant images of Vargas’ head getting snapped back.
To Vargas’ credit, he bravely battled and even hurt Berchelt with an overhand right in the second, and in the middle rounds with a sneaky body shot. But by the seventh, the contest ceased being competitive and turned into a bloodbath. Cuts were opened above both of Vargas’ eyes with the left being a ghastly injury leaving a flap of skin affecting the champion’s vision.
Based on Vargas’ pedigree as a comeback fighter, referee Raul Caiz gave him every opportunity to turn things around being finally calling it off in the 11th.
WHAT’S NEXT: Last night’s developments have shaken up the 130-pound division. Vargas will spend the rest of the year convalescing, eliminating the possibility of a quick rematch with Berchelt. Miura remains the #1 contender and will likely face Berchelt next in what promises to be another brutal shootout. Despite Roy Jones saying he favored Miura because of his punching power, I view Berchelt-Miura as 50/50 due to Berchelt’s speed, Miura’s lack of head movement and the tough fights he’s endured (including tonight).
This leaves Orlando Salido out in the cold. He was in attendance and no doubt hoping to get a rematch with Vargas, the man he battled to a draw in 2016’s Fight of Year. It’s still possible he can entice Berchelt to fight him since it would be a more lucrative contest than the Miura defense.
Also looming in the distance is WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko, an HBO staple and the division’s most talented fighter. Then there’s Jason Sosa, who has a version of the WBA strap and has fought on HBO before. Don’t forget Jezreel Corrales, who holds the other version and scored another victory over former lineal champ Takashi Uchiyama last month. And finally young gun Gervonta Davis, who picked up the IBF strap earlier this month. Mix and match any of these fighters together and you have a compelling matchup.