By Francisco Salazar
INGLEWOOD - It may not have been the thrilling brawl fight fans were expecting Saturday night, but the clash between Miguel Berchelt and Takashi Miura provided a lot of clarity when the fight ended.
Berchelt is an elite fighter at 130 pounds and Miura, albeit his best days as a contender may be behind him, never gives up.
Both of those played out as Berchelt won a 12 round unanimous decision before an announced crowd of 5,846 at The Forum.
With the win, Berchelt successfully defended his WBC junior lightweight title and improves to 32-1, with 28 KOs. Miura has now lost his last two fights and drops to 31-4-2, with 24 KOs.
Fight fans had circled July 15 since the Berchelt-Miura fight was announced a few months ago. It was a can't miss fight between two fighters who are aggressive boxer-punchers and have created a reputation of not shying away from taking a punch or two to land two or three.
Berchelt was defending his world title for the first time since his 11th round knockout victory over Francisco Vargas, who won the WBC title from Miura back in November of 2015.
What transpired Saturday night was more of a showcase for Berchelt, who is in his prime and solidifying himself as a top fighter at 130 pounds.
Berchelt struck first, dropping Miura with a left-right combination to the head towards the end of the round.
Throughout the first half of fight, Berchelt connected repeatedly with right hands to the head, causing noticeable bruising on Miura's face by the midway point of the fight.
Miura attempted to get on the inside of Berchelt's longer reach, throwing and landing left hands to Berchelt's stomach.
Sensing he was down in the fight, Miura attempted to rally late in the fight. There were some exchanges between the two where the southpaw Miura was able to connect on an occasional hook or cross, at times stunning Berchelt.
But the 25-year-old Berchelt was able to weather the storm, even though he looked somewhat exhausted during the final two rounds.
Scores were 116-111, 119-108, and 120-109 for Berchelt, who's 10-bout knockout streak was snapped.
Punch stats solidified Berchelt's dominance in the fight. Berchelt landed 245 our of 745 total punches (33 percent), while Miura connected on 134 of 436 total punches (31 percent).
After the fight, Berchelt gave a lot of praise to Miura.
"I knew this fight was going to be won with intelligence," said Berchelt. "Miura is a warrior and he fought until the end. He kept coming forward, and when he connected (with) his punches, they did hurt. I knew I was going to fight an ex-world champion, so I prepared myself well."
Asked about what future plans lie ahead, Berchelt is willing to face any of the belt holders, including WBO junior lightweight titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko.
"I'm ready to fight the best. I went through the two toughest fighters at 130 pounds in Vargas and Miura. I would like to fight Lomachenko."
Miura was modest in defeat.
"Berchelt was a smart fighter. He did not allow me to control my distance."
Corrales survives Castellanos in close bout
Jezreel Corrales outlasted Robinson Castellanos, overcoming two knockdowns to win a close 10 round technical decision.
Corrales successfully defended his WBA junior lightweight title and goes to 22-1, with 8 KOs. Castellanos drops to 24-13, with 14 KOs.
Corrales was making the second defense of his world title belt, which he won from Takashi Uchiyama in April of last year. Castellanos stopped Yuriorkis Gamboa after the seventh round of his last bout on May 5.
The southpaw Corrales was effective in utilizing his awkwardness early on in the fight, making Castellanos miss. Castellanos closed the distance in round three, landing a series of right hands to the head.
Castellanos did his best work in round four, dropping Corrales twice in the round and both on right hands to the head. Castellanos was winning rounds, until the seventh, when a left hand to the head dropped Castellanos to the canvas.
Corrales swung momentum his way during the next couple of rounds, outboxing Castellanos. The end of the fight came at 31 seconds of round 10, when an accidental clash of heads opened a cut below the right eye of Castellanos, prompting referee Jerry Cantu to stop the fight on the advice of the ringside physician.
Under the unified rules of boxing, the fight went to the scorecards, including the 10th round, due to the fight being stopped by an accidental foul. One judge scored the bout 94-94, while the other two judges scored the bout 96-92 and 94-93 for Corrales.
"I knew this would be an interesting fight, (but) I am so happy about the victory," said Corrales after the fight. "This is probably the best fight that I've had in my career so far. I'm looking at tonight's main event as one of my future opponents."
Castellanos had a different outlook of the fight.
"I am honestly so sad. That head-butt should have disqualified him. It could have been fatal. I knew coming in that I was in enemy territory, however I felt that I was ahead (on) the cards. I feel terrible."
One judge scored the bout 94-94, while the other two judges scored the bout 96-92 and 94-93 in factor of Castellanos.
Barrera decisions Smith
In the opening bout of the HBO telecast, Sullivan Barrera survived a first round knockdown to win a hard-fought 10 round unanimous decision over Joe Smith Jr.
Barrera improves to 20-1, with 14 KOs, while Smith falls to 23-2, with 19 KOs.
Barrera has now won his last three fights since losing a unanimous decision to Andre Ward back in March of last year. Smith last fought on December 17, knocking out Bernard Hopkins in round eight, which also took place at The Forum.
It looked like Smith would end matters early, as he dropped Barrera with a left hook to the top of the head near the end of the opening round. Barrera was able to hold on and escape the round.
After an even second round, Barrera finally got on track, beating Smith to the punch, especially with overhand right crosses to the head. As the fight was at its midway point, Smith's punch output dropped significantly.
Barrera continued to score as the bout made its way into the second half of the fight. Towards the end of the sixth round, Barrera landed a hellacious right uppercut, snapping Smith's head back. Anytime Smith attempted to mount a rally, actually throwing more than one punch at a time, Barrera connected repeatedly to the head and body.
Scores were 97-92, 97-92, and 96-93 in favor of Barrera, who claimed a regional title belt in the process.
“I feel very happy about this win," said Barrera after the fight. "Joe Smith, Jr. is a great champion and I respect him very much. This title wouldn’t have been possible with my amazing team, and my father here tonight was also amazing. When Smith, Jr. knocked me down in the (first) round, I got back up cause that’s who I am. In my fight with (Vyacheslav) Shabranskyy, the same thing happened. I shoot back up to get the victory.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing