By: Robert Aaron Contreras
In 2017, Vasyl Lomachenko turned away Jason Sosa to affirm his position as the super featherweight touchstone, the 130-pound king. Meanwhile, Miguel Berchelt was fighting through a violent field of warmongers—namely Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas—to put together a tremendous ledger… for its time. The problem is the Mexican champion has hardly added to it since.
Nearly three years on, Berchelt (36-1, 32 KO) is still universally recognized as the No. 1 boxer in the class, set to defend his WBC championship against none other than Sosa (23-3-4, 16 KO) at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The broadcast will air on ESPN, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET. A win this weekend would mark five consecutive title defenses. While the belt may be firmly in his grasp, the plaudits for his reputation continue to slip away.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
The Mexican titleholder earned the throne in a terrific year of action that saw the 130-pound hierarchy arranged by a de-facto tournament across HBO. The last man left standing was Berchelt, savagely dispatching Vargas in the eleventh round. That same night Miura bounced Mickey Roman for a shot at the divisional helm.
Berchelt’s return to California is his first start in the west coast since defeating Miura. Outlasting the Japanese berserker over the distance, he minted his new green belt with a crippling power-hitting attack en route to a decision verdict.
After Berchelt took care of Miura, he opened the year 2018 with two soft touches. In the form of an unheralded southpaw Maxwell Awuku and a washed featherweight in Jonathan Victory Barros, perhaps the champ had earned it after such a tough run up the ranks. But as Lomachenko jumped up to 135 pounds, the weight class opened up again. And, ultimately, Berchelt’s decision to recycle familiar names—picking off the aforementioned Roman—provided no further grist for his placement atop the new super featherweight elite that emerged in 2019.
This year, Cinderella champions Andrew Cancio and Jamel Herring picked up respective crowns, staging giant upsets. And gaining traction most of all is IBF beltholder Tevin Farmer. Streaking up the win column, with the dizzying style to play foil to a demolition man like Berchelt, Farmer took part in five championship bouts. This in the same time period that Berchelt only defended his title twice—including an indefensible return match with Vargas.
Farmer, having already won twice this year, pleaded for a unification with Berchelt. But the dedicated WBC envoy has recently turned his focus in-house to Herring or, worse, Oscar Valdez. Note, Valdez has yet to officially compete at the 130-pound limit. In the end, Berchelt is instead fighting another figure from 2017 in Sosa. A rejuvenated, classy box-fighter in Sosa, to be sure. But a quondam bit player nonetheless.
Assuredly, the bookies are shorting Sosa at eight-to-one odds. His three-fight win streak should be at four straight. Following a short stint as WBO champion—proving himself a notch above the likes of Javier Fortuna and Stephen Smith—he was robbed in 2017 against Yuriorkis Gamboa. Sosa, the definition of a two-handed banger, routinely beat Gamboa to the punch, forced to unbind himself from the Cuban’s grappling. Only to be handed a majority-decision loss.
In August, Sosa returned to form, headlining an ESPN+ show. He overpowered the sizable Haskell Rhodes to a TKO victory. Rhodes, a former Floyd Mayweather Sr. pupil and longtime lightweight, had never before been stopped inside the distance—in the past extending bombardiers like Sergey Lipinets and Edner Cherry. Sosa floored Rhodes three times, twice with a right hand, once with a left. The third knockdown of the fight in the seventh round was one too many for Rhodes’ corner and they promptly threw in the towel.
Sosa doesn’t work off of a jab. Instead initiating punch combinations with either hand—sometimes even squaring up his shoulders to his opponent. A high output guy, through and through. Also a master of punching out of clinches, muscling up his man before hitting and separating.
Ancajas defends super flyweight world title
It does not take much for a world champion to lose his legitimacy in the public conscious. Win or lose on Saturday, Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21 KO) is in with another unproven challenger. This one named Jonathan “Titan” Rodriguez (21-1, 15 KO) continuing his run of lackluster title defenses over the last three years.
In his first action of the year, Ancajas returned in chief support of light heavyweight ruler Artur Beterbiev on ESPN, battering Japanese veteran Ryuichi Funai to a doctor’s stoppage ahead of Round 7. The stoppage represented his seventh title defense—currently the longest reigning super flyweight beltholder. He picked up the title in 2016. Though, before crushing Funai, Ancajas swallowed an arduous split-decision nod against Alejandro Santiago, an obscure and undersized brawler out of Mexico.
Next up to bat is Rodriguez, who is exactly the same age as Santiago. And hardly more accomplished. On paper, the 24-year-old Mexican has a respectable record, knocking out 70 percent of his opponents—a passing grade, at least. Never competing outside of his own backyard, Rodriguez’s only opponent of note is countryman Felipe Orucuta.
The two met in the main event of Fox Sports-Latin America broadcast. Rodriguez was the winner by seventh-round TKO, hospitalizing Orucuta for two whole months.
Closing in on the weekend, Ancajas is as high as a -1200 favorite to get by Rodriguez, the considerable underdog (+600).