By Marc Livitz: In November of 2015, Takashi Miura stepped into an American ring for the very first time in his professional boxing career. The fifth defense of his WBC world super featherweight title was against Mexican knockout artist Francisco "El Bandido" Vargas, who was undefeated at the time. As part of the undercard for the showdown between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Miguel Cotto for the vacant WBC world middleweight championship at Mandalay Bay, Miura and Vargas gave the fans in attendance a nine round war to cherish. The tendency of some to overlook all contests save for the main event may have resulted in a slow burn of regret because they missed a fight as opposed to a chess match.
A back and forth war ensued which saw Vargas sent to the canvas in round four before he finally scored a knockout win midway through the ninth. At the time of the stoppage, Miura held a split decision edge on the three scorecards at ringside. The crowd at the Events Center on the Vegas Strip roared with delight and appreciation. Furthermore, the writers of this very site voted the bout as the top fight of the year (www.secondsout.com/columns/marc-livitz/fight-of-the-year---vargas-tko-9-miura).
Vargas was able to hold onto the WBC strap for just over a year, after which he surrendered his title by way of an eleventh round knockout loss to Miguel "El Alacran" Berchelt. After four rounds of the January contest which was held in Indio, California, Vargas looked worse for wear indeed as he suffered cuts near each eye as well as a busted nose. Seriously hard punches were landed throughout the contest as each man essentially beat the other back in an ebb and flow contest. As the fight wore on, Francisco found Miguel’s shots to hold more power and precision than his own. He fought on until he was ultimately worn down by his Mexican compatriot in the eleventh round.
The bout was stopped by referee Raul Caiz, Jr., yet Vargas managed to go out on his feet. Interestingly enough, Takashi Miura was part of the evening’s co-main event that night and his efforts against Miguel Roman earned him a twelfth round stoppage. Miura put Roman on the canvas once in each the tenth and eleventh round before sealing the deal in the final period. The WBC super featherweight title eliminator meant he’d get to take part in another potentially high octane, all action fight that fans would surely enjoy from rafter to living room couch.
This Saturday night in Los Angeles, Berchelt (31-1, 28 KO’s) will likely skip any and all formalities when he hears the first bell ring and sees Miura (31-3-2, 24 KO’s) heading in his direction. The Fabulous Forum, which is nestled in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood is deeply rooted in sporting lore and will host the contest that will be televised on HBO in the United States (9:50 PM ET/PT).
As boxing fans seek to recover from the fallout that was the rematch between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev and its respective stoppage as well as the likely unceasing promotion of sideshow spectacle between two fighters of different disciplines, this Saturday’s contest has the potential to provide a pleasant night away. We’ll see two combatants who don’t believe too heartedly in utilizing a jab and a knockout is a great possibility. Yucatán state native Berchelt and Tokyo resident Miura can remind us why we love this sport and continue to defend it to the bitter ends.