LAS VEGAS — For 13 months, Miguel Berchelt has been waiting for this moment. He’s forever on the highlight reels, though in his case, it’s not a good thing.
Berchelt was viciously knocked out in his last bout when he faced Oscar Valdez in a super featherweight unification bout. Valdez knocked him cold with a KO of the Year-type finish and became the unified champion.
Berchelt, who’d entered the bout 38-1 and on a 17-fight winning streak, was sort of forgotten. He’ll emerge from the shadows on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) to face Jeremiah Nakathila at Resorts World in a lightweight bout he hopes is a prelude to a second championship run.
His first one was stellar, by any measure. He first won the interim WBO super featherweight title on March 12, 2016, by knocking out George Jupp in the sixth. He won eight more title fights, proving himself to be one of the elite fighters in the world. One of those wins was a KO of Francisco Vargas on Jan. 28, 2017, in a pulsating bout to win the WBC super featherweight title.
He’s long been one of the most appealing fighters in the world, but he had a terrible night against Valdez. But he insists he’s put that in the rearview mirror and is ready to once again perform at the highest, and most entertaining, level.
“I’m going to put on a spectacular show for my people and I’m sending a message to the lightweight division: They must contend with me,” Berchelt said. “My goal is to become world champion at lightweight. It will not be easy because I know that at 135 pounds there are a lot of great fighters. Most importantly, I have the desire and the potential to be crowned once again as world champion.”
To help him navigate the comeback, he enlisted the aid of a friend who had a similar story. Brandon Moreno was cut by the UFC in 2018, won several fights outside the organization and came back and won the flyweight title. The UFC’s first champion from Mexico, Moreno became one of the most exciting and popular UFC fighters in the process.
Berchelt has spent weeks working out with Moreno. Berchelt also hired Jorge Capetillo as his trainer and they’ve worked together to rebuild his game and put him in position to return to championship status.
Moreno was the ultimate underdog and he displayed a grittiness and a determination that helped him get to the top. If that’s rubbed off on the power-punching Berchelt, it’s a huge bonus for him.
“It motivated me to train with Brandon Moreno,” Berchelt said. “The truth is that he is a great person, and he has done amazing things to raise the Mexican flag very high. Right now, we are training together, and I feel very happy to be his training partner. We are both working hard to continue representing Mexico with great pride.”
Berchelt opted to train in Las Vegas rather than Mexico. One of the benefits he found from being in the boxing capital of the world was the large number of sparring partners.
In addition, he ran the roads of Mount Charleston, whose elevation is 7,510 with a peak that hits 11,916 feet and that towers above the glittering Las Vegas valley below.
It’s been a good way for him to get himself conditioned and change his mindset. He’s embraced the idea of competing at lightweight, where the likes of Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, George Kambosos, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Ryan Garcia reside.
“The experience of changing my training camp to Las Vegas with coach Jorge Capetillo has been very good,” Berchelt said. “In this city, there are many champions, and I think that God brought me here for a reason. There are many styles of sparring partners, which I was not able to find in Mexico. It has also been a great experience to run up Mount Charleston. I think all these changes are for the best, and we are ready to return to the ring with a big win.”
Berchelt will be a long shot to win a lightweight title given the caliber of fighters ahead of him. But he quietly put together an elite résumé at super featherweight, and he’s only 30 years old.
It would be a mistake to underestimate him. At BetMGM, he’s a -500 favorite to defeat Nakathila, who is +375. A win over Nakathila, who went 12 rounds last year with the great Shakur Stevenson, would be a good start to prove he’s ready for the best 135-pounders on the planet.