SAN DIEGO – Ukraine’s fighting spirit carried Saturday in boxing, as lightweight Denys Berinchyk joined his heavyweight countryman Oleksandr Usyk with a heartfelt split decision title victory.

Berinchyk’s win came over Mexico’s three-division titleholder Emanuel Navarrete, who showed up bloated and lacking, delivering an uninspiring performance against the more aggressive foe.

Berinchyk won the vacant WBO lightweight bout via activity and little else. The judges scored the bout 115-113 Berinchyk, 116-112 Navarrete and 116-112 Berinchyk. 

Navarrete’s move up in weight drew repeated chides on social media, as his belly floated over black trunks fittingly denoting his sponsorship deal with Winchell’s Donut House. 

He seemed to throw punches blindly without purpose. Navarrete’s lethargic start raised alarms immediately, as the Tijuana fighter was slow to land the patented power shots that have defined his career.

It was something new for me,” he said afterward in the ring. “Like I always said, it would be difficult. Denys is a great fighter. He made me struggle a lot. And you saw what happened. I know that I need to improve.

 “I needed to do more, but I know that I can do more. So, I congratulate him on his win. I’m happy because I tried things out at 135 pounds, and I know I will be strong at this division. I don’t think this jump up in weight will be too much for me. His power was common, not extremely intense. I knew that I need to improve, but that’s fine.”

As Berinchyk, 19-0 (9 KOs), pressed the action to score points, Navarrete, 38-2-1 (31 KOs), took until the fourth round to even start flinging his most powerful salvos. They didn’t bother Berinchyk like they did against foes in the lighter weight classes, however, making it clear to some astute ringside observers that Navarrete would be best served to return to 130 pounds.

Navarrete did nothing to distinguish himself as the better fighter through six rounds. Yes, his landed punches were more powerful. But Berinchyk’s aggression netted more clean blows.

The Tijuana product fought like he acknowledged that in the seventh, stepping up his activity – which still seemed like just a slight adjustment to the supportive crowd just north of his hometown.

They chanted “Mexico” to trigger a reminder of how Navarrete should be brawling – especially in a division that counts his Top Rank stablemates Vasiliy Lomachenko (IBF) and Shakur Stevenson (WBC) as titleholders along with Gervonta “Tank” Davis (WBA) of Premier Boxing Champions.

Navarrete landed more intense punches in the 10th as the finish line neared, and he hurt Berinchyk with a sudden right that froze the Ukraine fighter. But it wasn’t enough, and what might’ve been a star-studded cast of lightweight titleholders — including a four-division titleholder in Navarrete — is now reduced by one-fourth.

A boxing official familiar with Top Rank’s plans for Navarrete said during the bout that Navarrete’s name in victory would’ve been included in coming talks with Lomachenko, who’s coming off his 11th-round knockout of former lightweight champion George Kambosos last week.

Now the well-known cast of lightweight titleholders includes two Ukrainians – Lomachenko and Berinchyk.

Asked who he wants to make his first defense against, Berinchyk said: Maybe Shakur Stevenson? Keyshawn Davis? Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t give a [care],” substituting in a different four-letter word.