For fans who knew the name Miguel Berchelt before he broke through to win the WBC belt at 130 lbs., Saturday will feel like a throwback of sorts.
A few years ago, BeIn Sports Espanol became a destination for hardcore fans with access to the channel. It was regularly an 11PM home for many of the sports best smaller stars, names like Donnie Nietes, Roman Gonzalez, and Juan Francisco Estrada, before they consistently broke through to English language outlets in the US. It also aired gems like Orlando Salido-Terdsak Kokietgym and provided a look at rising prospects and contenders below the lightweight limit.
Miguel Berchelt was one of those whose rise fans were able to follow through that series until the night he toppled Francisco Vargas on HBO. Whether it’s been ShoBox, Boxeo Telemundo, Solo Boxeo, or the undercards of series on ESPN or through the PBC, it’s probably always a little more fun to see a fighter cut their teeth and ultimately rise to prominence.
The investment of time in the journey makes a difference.
In these interesting times, some titlists are dipping a toe back in the water with some rust busters and Berchelt is one of them. There is little reason to think Berchelt is in any jeopardy in a non-title affair Saturday night (ESPN, 11 PM EST) against Eleazar Valenzuela (21-13-4, 16 KO). Valenzuela, coming off a knockout loss, is instead the sort of guy fans might have seen Berchelt against on one of those BeIn shows early on.
If the opponent doesn’t peak interest, the return still does. Berchelt has defended his belt six times. There will likely be a seventh. The idea of a showdown with former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez is one worth rooting to see before anything else occurs. Unification with Jamel Herring, who like Berchelt fights under the Top Rank banner, would be as well.
Based on his body frame, and the names five pounds up the scale, one can assume it’s only a matter of time until Berchelt is trying the best in the world at 135 lbs.
Whether he makes the jump as a reigning or former titlist remains to be seen. It could certainly affect his place in line. The names in his sights aren’t hard to guess. As quoted by Steve Kim at ESPN earlier this week, Berchelt stated "Without a doubt, I'd take the fight with the winner of (Vasyl) Lomachenko-(Teofimo) Lopez because that's a big fight. They are big names. It would be a great challenge for me, and I would become a champion in another division."
Berchelt’s has one of the better active title reigns going in all of boxing relative to his division. Multiple defenses against solid opposition have made clear his quality. Being a good fighter, even a commendable champion, is no guarantee of the biggest opportunities or expansive stardom.
For all fighters, there are less than a handful of opponents in or around any of their weights who can genuinely provide a gateway for that. There might be less than that. Based on ticket sales and television ratings, there might not be anyone right now at Jr. lightweight who fits the bill.
At lightweight, Lomachenko and Gervonta Davis have separated from the pack as attractions. Lopez could be on the cusp. Win, or even lose in dramatic fashion, to Lomachenko and it only increases the depth at 135 lbs.
The winner of Lomachenko-Lopez is something Berchelt can dream about. The presumptive top of 130 lbs. versus what would be the likely near unanimous choice as king at 135 is an easy sell.
It probably isn’t something we’d see before 2021. It might not happen at all if Valdez can derail Berchelt’s momentum.
But for now, assuming he can keep winning, Berchelt’s clock is ticking toward bigger things literally and figuratively.
Joshua Franco’s upset of Andrew Moloney was probably the best of boxing since its return to air. While the merits of the WBA’s sub-titles are nothing to excite, it opened the door for a new player at Jr. bantamweight. 115 lbs. delivers as often as any division in recent years and this was no exception...Doom Patrol season two is almost here and just wondering how much more bananas it can be the second time around is joy to anticipate...Hoping Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson stay right where they are as far as in-ring action goes: on old video...Sorry to hear Inside PBC was cancelled by FS1. Top Rank has a healthy microphone on ESPN and it would be nice if the PBC umbrella finds another platform for a studio show to maintain their own. They’ve done a great job getting personalities across to viewers. Again, personal investments by the audience matter...Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III has to happen before anything else and while the rematch was conclusive let’s not forget the difference between a loss and a controversial draw the first time around was one second on the floor.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org