WBC title holder Miguel Berchelt is already on his third opponent without yet even stepping into the ring. Saturday marks the Mexican power-puncher and Cancun native’s first fight in his old neighbourhood for seven years.
It was intended to be a grandstand affair against fellow Mexican Cristian Mijares, but that ultimately fell through due to contractual disputes. In his place stepped the far from remarkable Filipino Carlo Magali. Until, that is, his local commission blocked the fight for safety reasons due to its proximity to his last ring outing on January 13.
With just days to go before the promotion: there was a championship belt, a world champion and no challenger. With the clock against them the promoters have rifled through boxing’s little black book and there in the outer and unloved echelons have found an opponent in the form of Ghanian southpaw Maxwell Awuku (44-3-1).
The challenger has a formidable record albeit one achieved in complete obscurity in his native Ghana. His record has been built against faceless names in unknown places. His one noteworthy victory versus South Africa’s former IBF champion Lehlo Ledwaba, came against a fighter that was a shadow of his former-self, and who retired after defeat to Awuku.
Miguel Berchelt vs Maxwell Awuku for the WBC world super featherweight title
Where: Plaza de Toros, Cancun, Mexico
When: Saturday 10th February – 8pm ET / 1am UK time
TV: beIN Sports Espanol / BoxNation
Let's face it, 11th hour opponents rarely go well. No fighter with top level prospects would accept a world title fight against a champion of Berchelt’s obvious calibre with only a few days preparation.
The promoters have done a good job here in sourcing an opponent that can be billed as international and possessing of an eye-catching record. However, even the most cursory level of due diligence would comfortably lift the lid off these numbers and show this fight up for the total and utter mismatch it manifestly is.
Aside from the heavily caveated success over Ledwaba, Awuku has only twice fought outside of Ghana against opponents that would be considered as a step up in class. On both occasions he lost respectably albeit on a significantly smaller stage than the one he will soon occupy. London’s York Hall is a world away from the blue sky and golden beaches of Cancun but when he travelled there in 2010 to take on Liam Walsh for the Commonwealth title, he lost heavily over 12 rounds. History repeated itself five years later when Awuku took on former contender Daud Yordan in Indonesia.
With Berchelt a significant upgrade on both of these names it is difficult to see how this will be anything but a painful nights work for the challenger. Whether it will also be a short one is really dependant on the robustness of Awuku’s chin. This is somewhat difficult to place into context considering his limited opposition to date. He can though claim never to have been stopped and that may hint to a certain level of durability.
The 26-year-old champion enters the ring on the back of a glorious 2017. He secured the WBC strap early in the year via 11th round stoppage in a rip-roaring encounter with Francisco Vargas. He then produced a dominant display in his first defence against Japan’s Takashi Miura.
The only blemish on his record is a shock 1st round stoppage against the largely unheralded Luis Eduardo Florez, nearly four years ago. This perhaps offers the one chink of light or opportunity for Awuku; if he can catch Berchelt cold. It is a huge “if” though and if anyone is likely to be staring up at the ring lights before the end of the 1st stanza it is overwhelmingly the Ghanian.
This one is absolutely nailed on in favour of the champion. To such an extent that, here in the UK, I can’t even find a betting market for it. I am sure if you were to wander off the beach and into a friendly Cancun casino you could wager a suitcase full of Peso’s on Berchelt and collect just about enough for a Pina Colada and some bar snacks.
If you are watching this one at home stick to a stubby bottle of Modelo and don’t go mixing any complicated cocktails right before the 1st bell. This one could be over very quickly as “El Alacran” looks to add to his already formidable knockout record.
The Mexican has had injury problems concerning his right hand, yet there is every chance Awuku will quickly tire of making its acquaintance, once the action starts. Fresh and fired up in front of a hometown crowd it really is difficult to believe that the local man will not end this one in double quick time.
This bout is nothing more than a brief warm-up for a later mandatory defence against veteran Orlando Salido. If, as expected, he comes through that then the boxing public would dearly love to see him trade blows with the division’s undisputed king: Vasyl Lomachenko.
Prediction: Berchelt by TKO rounds 1-2
The decent and slightly old-fashioned undercard features some top rated local prospects in competitive fights that they really should win. This is the kind of neighbourhood where they eschew manufactured 2nd tier paper titles and prefer to get straight down to business.
21-year-old unbeaten Mexican middleweight prospect Jaime Munguia (26-0) faces experienced Argentine Jose Carlos Paz (21-6-1) over 10 rounds. Paz is a tough and resilient character that will look to extend his unbeaten foe. However, Munguia has ended 22 of his 26 professional contests inside the distance and it is difficult to see this encounter experiencing a different ending.
Further down the card, Pedro Campa (27-1) looks to get back on track following his surprise October loss to the limited Carlos Jimenez. In a super lightweight contest he takes on countryman Ivan Alvarez (27-8). Another loss could run the real prospect of permanently derailing Campa’s progress to contender status.