Junior lightweight world titleholder Miguel Berchelt will defend his belt for the first time when he faces former titlist Takashi Miura on July 15 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Golden Boy Promotions announced Wednesday.
The fight will headline a tripleheader on “Boxing After Dark” (HBO, 9:50 p.m. ET/PT) that will also include Jezreel Corrales defending his version of the junior lightweight title against Robinson Castellanos and a showdown between top 10 light heavyweight contenders Joe Smith Jr. and Sullivan Barrera.
“The [junior lightweight] division is absolutely stacked with skilled, high-action fighters right now, and the four competitors atop this card are competing to see who will be the top dog,” Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya said. “Add to that a showdown between two of the top light heavyweights in the world in Smith and Barrera, and you have all the makings of a trio of absolute wars on July 15.”
Berchelt and Miura each won exciting slugfests on the same Jan. 28 HBO card to set up their mandatory fight. Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs), 25, of Mexico, inflicted severe cuts on Francisco Vargas and stopped him in the 11th round to win the 130-pound belt in the main event; Japan’s Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs), 33, outslugged Miguel “Mickey” Roman in a 12th-round knockout victory in a world title elimination bout to earn the shot at the belt Berchelt won. The win was Berchelt’s 10th in a row, all by knockout, since an upset first-round knockout loss to Luis Eduardo Florez in 2014. Miura figures to present him with a very difficult fight.
“I took on this challenge because I only want to fight the best,” Berchelt said. “I know that Miura is a true warrior and always leaves it all in the ring, but I am young and hungry and am confident that I will return to Mexico with the world championship belt still around my waist.”
Miura, a southpaw, won a world title in 2013 and successfully defended it four times before Vargas stopped him in the ninth round in a huge comeback in the consensus 2015 fight of the year on the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto undercard in Las Vegas. Miura has won both of his bouts since and is aiming to recapture the belt he once held.
“I have wanted to regain my championship belt from the moment I lost it in November of 2015,” Miura said. “I know Berchelt is strong, but nothing is get in the way of my destiny of becoming a two-time world champion.”
Corrales, a 25-year-old southpaw from Panama, will be making his second title defense. He scored a major upset to win his belt when he knocked out Takashi Uchiyama in the second round in Tokyo in April 2016. Corrales then won a split decision against Uchiyama in an immediate rematch in December. Earlier this year, Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs) signed with Golden Boy with the aim to fight in the United States and get involved in fights on a bigger stage. Now he has that.
“I am excited to make my United States debut and defend my world title,” Corrales said. “While people in America might not yet be familiar with me, they will surely know my name after this fight.”
Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs), 35, of Mexico, might not have the prettiest record, but 10 of his defeats came in 2010 or earlier. He has also pulled upset victories against Ronny Rios and Rocky Juarez and scored the biggest upset of his career on May 5, when he dominated and knocked out former unified featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa in Las Vegas in the “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” main event the night before Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“This is my first time fighting for a world title, and I am not going to let the opportunity slip away,” Castellanos said. “I have the experience and power to take out Corrales, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do on July 15.”
The scheduled 10-round opening bout, in a deep light heavyweight division that HBO is heavily involved in, was put together by Smith promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing and Kathy Duva of Main Events. Smith (23-1, 19 KOs), a popular fighter from New York’s Long Island, will return to the site of his greatest victory, which took place in his last fight when he knocked the great Bernard Hopkins out of the ring in the eighth round and sent the future Hall of Famer into retirement on Dec. 17.
“I’m thrilled to be back on HBO against another top light heavyweight, Sullivan Barrera,” Smith said. “I’ve already started training and will be more than ready on July 15. There’s a number of great fighters in our division and I’m looking forward to another victory on my way to a world title shot.”
Smith, 27, had hoped to land a shot at light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson, but the deal DeGuardia was working on for late April fell apart, and Smith now will take on Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs), 35, a former Cuban amateur standout fighting out of Miami. Barrera has won two fights in a row by knockout since suffering a lopsided decision loss in Mach 2016 to Andre Ward, who went on to claim three world title belts by outpointing Sergey Kovalev in November.
“This is a great opportunity for me. I want to thank my entire team for making this happen,” Barrera said. “I respect Joe for taking this fight. He is a great fighter, and I have a tough test on July 15. I will work hard to put on a great show for all the fans.”