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Berchelt aims for unification in wide-open junior lightweight division

Miguel Berchelt retained his WBC junior lightweight belt by defeating Mickey Roman on Saturday night. LUIS PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Opening Bell: Junior lightweight wide open

If there is one division that is as wide open as one could imagine, with zero clarity as to who is the king, it is the junior lightweights. Don't expect that to change in the near future.

Miguel Berchelt, who I rank No. 1 in the ESPN divisional rankings at 130 pounds but without strong conviction, retained his world title for the fourth time in a terrific, action-packed -- but mostly one-sided -- battle against mandatory challenger and Mexican countryman Miguel "Mickey" Roman on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

Berchelt (35-1, 31 KOs), 26, scored three knockdowns during his ninth-round knockout of the valiant warrior Roman (60-13, 47 KOs), 32, who gave it everything he had -- as did Berchelt. The rivals definitely lived up to their pre-fight promise of a memorable brawl befitting their Mexican boxing heroes.

Roman, despite so many fights and losses, is a quality contender. He would be a tough out for anyone in the division, so this is a good victory for Berchelt, who also owns notable wins against Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas, from whom he won the belt last year.

After the battle, Berchelt reiterated what he said before the fight -- that he wants to unify titles before looking at an eventual rise to lightweight sometime in 2019. At that point he wants to challenge champion and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko -- which is doable, as both fighters have ties to promoter Top Rank.

As for the unification bout, Berchelt rattled off the names of the other titleholders in a division that boasts a lot of exciting talent at the top, including Tevin Farmer (27-4-1, 6 KOs), Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) and secondary titlist Alberto Machado (21-0, 17 KOs).

Unlike a potential Lomachenko fight, these bouts at 130 pounds are seemingly unlikely. Farmer, who looked sensational in a fifth-round knockout of James Tennyson on Oct. 20, recently signed a co-promotional deal to bring in Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, whose stable is exclusive to DAZN.

Davis is tied to Premier Boxing Champions, which means he fights on Showtime or Fox and, besides, he is linked to a probable early 2019 fight with Abner Mares.

Ito, who outpointed Christopher Diaz to win a vacant belt in a July thriller, could fight in Japan in late December and after that could return to the United States for a defense on a Top Rank card against Jamel Herring. And Machado, coming off an explosive first-round knockout of Yuandale Evans on Oct. 27, is co-promoted by Golden Boy, which just signed a fat deal with DAZN.

That means other than the prospect of Berchelt facing the winner of a possible Ito-Herring fight, which is probably the least interesting of all of the possibilities, don't bank on Berchelt landing a unification fight.

If I could wave a magic wand, I'd like to see Berchelt-Machado. That's a great style matchup between aggressive fighters and a classic Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry fight. A man can dream, right?

On the positive side, perhaps we could see Farmer-Machado since Hearn and Golden Boy are with the same broadcaster and seem to get on well with each other. But even if that happens, and even if Berchelt gets a chance to unify with the winner of a possible Ito-Herring fight, there would still be no clarity at 130 pounds.

Where's the World Boxing Super Series when you need it?

WBSS rolls on

There were two World Boxing Super Series quarterfinal bouts on Saturday at the SSE Hyrdo in Glasgow, Scotland, both of which ended in a surprising manner.

In the main event, No. 2 seed Josh Taylor (14-0, 12 KOs), 27, the home country star, laid waste to unseeded Ryan Martin (22-1, 12 KOs), 25, of Cleveland, stopping him in the seventh round of an overwhelmingly lopsided fight in the junior welterweight tournament. It wasn't so much that Taylor won that was a surprise, it was that Martin was never in the fight for a single second.

Taylor dominated with speed, power and skills, absolutely befuddling Martin, who looked clueless and was either unable or unwilling to throw punches. It was so one-sided that Abel Sanchez, Martin's trainer, began threatening to stop the fight in the corner after the fourth round.

Taylor cut Martin over his left eye in the sixth round, swelled his right eye in the seventh round and dropped him with a right hand later in the seventh, causing referee Victor Loughlin to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 21 seconds.

In the bantamweight tournament, unseeded Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25 KOs), 35, a Philippines native fighting out of Las Vegas, who has won world titles in four divisions, returned to 118 pounds for the first time since he held belt there in 2011. In the twilight of his career, and coming off an April loss to Carl Frampton at featherweight, Donaire pulled the upset to win another world title by defeating No. 1 seed Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs), 26, of Northern Ireland, in unusual fashion.

It was a competitive and exciting fight until late in the fourth round when Burnett appeared to injure his back or hip throwing a right hand. He was in so much pain that he took a knee for a knockdown. He finished the round barely able to move as Donaire blasted him with heavy shots. In the corner after the round, trainer Adam Booth stopped the fight, officially at one second of the fifth round.

Donaire, a surefire Hall of Famer, showed his class when he wrote on social media that he wanted to "send prayers of healing to Ryan Burnett and thank him for sharing the ring with me. I know he'll heal up and be back in the ring soon!"


The next step: Taylor advanced to the semifinals to challenge world titleholder Ivan Baranchyk (19-0, 12 KOs), 25, of Russia, who claimed a vacant belt with his seventh-round stoppage of Anthony Yigit in their Oct. 27 quarterfinal. This one has fireworks written all over it in a match of Taylor's skills and precision against Baranchyk's intense pressure. Donaire moves on to a world title unification fight in the semifinals against fellow southpaw Zolani Tete (28-3, 21 KOs), 30, of South Africa, who retained his belt by competitive decision over Mikhail Aloyan in an Oct. 13 quarterfinal.


Fights you might have missed

Saturday at New York

Light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (22-2, 14 KOs) W10 Seanie Monaghan (29-2, 17 KOs), scores: 99-91 (twice), 98-92.

Barrera, 36, a Cuban defector fighting out of Miami, Florida, came into the fight, which headlined a Golden Boy Fight Night card on Facebook Watch, in need of a win after suffering a 12th-round knockout loss challenging world titlist Dmitry Bivol in his previous fight in March. Monaghan, 37, the hometown fighter from New York's Long Island, figured to be the ideal opponent for him -- a guy with a decent name but nowhere near the skill and ability -- and he was.

After a slightly slow start, Barrera thoroughly dominated the crowd-pleasing fight. He landed his left hook with authority and, according to CompuBox, landed double the number of power shots as Monaghan (144-72). Barrera puts himself back in the title hunt and Monaghan lost for the second time in his last three fights, showing again that when he steps up in class he just can't hang with world-class opponents.

Saturday at Glasgow, Scotland

Junior welterweight Viktor Postol (30-2, 12 KOs) W10 Siar Ozgul (14-2, 3 KOs), score: 99-91 (the referee was the sole scorer).

On the World Boxing Super Series undercard, former world titlist Postol, 34, of Ukraine, the alternate for the junior welterweight tournament bout between Josh Taylor and Ryan Martin, stayed busy with a near-shutout of Ozgul, 25, a Turkey native fighting out of England, who lost his second fight in a row. Postol, who lost his belt to Terence Crawford in a 2016 unification fight, bounced back from a decision loss to Taylor in June. Bantamweight Paul Butler (27-2, 14 KOs) W10 Yoan Boyeaux (41-6, 26 KOs), score: 99-91 (the referee was the sole scorer).

Former world titlist Butler, 29, of England, the alternate for the tournament main event bout between Ryan Burnett and Nonito Donaire, got in a good workout against Boyeaux, 30, of France, as he bounced back in dominating fashion from getting knocked down twice and losing a decision to Emanuel Rodriguez for a vacant bantamweight world title in May.