By Keith Idec
This was one tough fight too many for Francisco Vargas.
Fellow Mexican Miguel Berchelt made the most of his first high-profile fight on American television and stopped Vargas in the 11th round Saturday night in Indio, California. Berchelt improved to 31-1, recorded his 28th knockout and won the WBC world super featherweight title from the previously unbeaten Vargas (23-1-2, 17 KOs).
A younger, stronger Berchelt battered Vargas for much of a mostly one-sided fight and made a bloody mess of the ever-valiant Vargas’ face. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. finally stopped Berchelt’s vicious assault at 2:19 of the 11th round, with a standing Vargas taking an unnecessary amount of punishment.
HBO televised their entertaining title fight from Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Vargas’ previous two fights – a majority draw with Orlando Salido and a ninth-round technical knockout of Takashi Miura – were epically brutal brawls that earned “Fight of the Year” honors from the Boxing Writers Association of America for 2016 and 2015, respectively. The 32-year-old Vargas said before battling Berchelt that he felt refreshed because he took off nearly six months after the Salido slugfest on June 4 in Carson, California, before beginning camp for the Berchelt bout.
Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez encouraged Vargas to take an easier assignment in his first fight after a second consecutive war with Salido. Vargas insisted on boxing Berchelt, but paid dearly for that decision.
The 25-year-old Berchelt won a 10th straight fight, all by knockout, since suffering his only professional defeat – a first-round technical knockout to Colombia’s Luis Florez (22-5, 18 KOs) in March 2014. The newly crowned champion went past the sixth round for the first time in his six-year pro career, yet didn’t show any signs of slowing down during the second half of the bout.
Berchelt began brutalizing Vargas early in the fight.
Berchelt hurt Vargas with several power punches in the second round. Vargas showed resolve, though, by coming back to land an overhand right late in that round that buzzed Berchelt.
Each boxer landed his fair share of power punches in the third round, but Berchelt snapped back Vargas’ head with a left hook late in the round. Berchelt also backed up Vargas with stiff jab earlier in the round.
Berchelt landed a hard left hook to Vargas’ head just after the midway mark of the fourth round. The challenger dominated much of that round before Vargas seemed to slow him down with a body shot late in fourth.
By the time the fourth round ended, Vargas, a notorious bleeder, had a large cut over his left eye and a small one beneath his right eye. The laceration over Vargas’ left eye opened in the same spot where he had plastic surgery to repair a disgusting cut sustained during the Salido fight.
Following a competitive fifth round, Berchelt began battering Vargas again during the sixth round. A hard right hand by Berchelt, followed by a jarring jab, knocked Vargas backward late in the sixth round.
Berchelt knocked Vargas into the ropes with a left hook early in the seventh round, only to have Vargas motion for him to keep coming. Vargas landed a hard left hook later in the seventh round, but clearly was falling behind on the scorecards by then.
The assault by Berchelt became more alarming in the ninth round, as Berchelt battered a bloody Vargas all around the ring. A ringside physician, Dr. Paul Wallace, took a look at the gash around Vargas’ left eye during that round, but allowed the action to continue.
Wallace took another close look at Vargas’ gash before the 10th round began, but again allowed that round to start. Berchelt continued to assault Vargas in the 10th round, when blood poured down Vargas’ face from the aforementioned cut.
Vargas never went down, but once Berchelt began knocking him around the ring again during the 11th round, Caiz stepped in to the stop the bout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.