When Azteca warriors Francisco Vargas and Miguel Berchelt embark on what promises to be a violent Mexican civil war for the WBC Super-Featherweight strap at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California on 28th January, one man sure to be glued to BoxNation’s live coverage is ex-Southern Area and WBO Inter-Continental king George Jupp.

Last March, the stylish and gutsy 26 year old from Belvedere made a spirited short notice challenge against the latter for the vacant WBO ‘interim’ title over in Merida, Mexico. He was stopped in round six.

Here, in his own words, Jupp recalls that once in a lifetime experience and previews what might be an early candidate for Fight of the Year.

[Photo credit: BoxingScene]

I only had six days notice for the WBO opportunity but, after taking a little look at Berchelt on Youtube, decided the ‘risk to gain’ was worth it.

My confidence was sky high at the time after just taking Mitchell Smith’s unbeaten record, plus Berchelt didn’t look ‘out of this world’. Though he seemed physically strong and his record suggested he was very heavy handed (25 stoppage wins out of 28), from tape he looked a bit sloppy.

To be fair, I’d already begun training for a different fight and my weight was only ten pounds over. I had just started sparring with Adam Dingsdale at the iBox gym but obviously didn’t have time to get anyone specific in for Berchelt’s style.

I think we left on the Wednesday and the fight was on the Saturday. I expected a hostile reception upon landing, with Mexico being such a tough place and Merida being Berchelt’s hometown but his promotional team looked after me very well. There was nothing untoward or seedy.

My first impression was that Berchelt was very big for the weight; taller than I’d expected and very thickset around the shoulders and chest. Miguel himself was very professional at the press conference and weigh-in and gave me no sh**. Mind, he spoke no English and I speak no Spanish.

[Photo credit: FightNews]

The venue was an 8,000 sell out. I’d fought before a bigger crowd when I beat Mitchell at the Manchester Arena but that night the crowd was quite neutral. In Yucatan, the only three rooting for me were my dad, granddad and girlfriend! That said, the Mexicans were real boxing people. They insisted paying for Dad’s drinks every time he went to the bar, stressing he was their guest.

It was always going to be a huge ask against such a dangerous fighter on such short notice but I started quite well. The tactics were to box and move, make Berchelt miss and I did catch him with a few uppercuts coming in, early doors. However, the ring canvas was two or three times thicker than I’d ever experienced before and it was like boxing on a mattress. I’ve usually got a good engine but the strength sapped from my legs very quickly.

On top of that, Miguel had a very different style to what I was used to. He weren’t the neatest and, early rounds, I made him miss quite a lot but his pace was very constant and very intense, as opposed to going up and down through the gears. His distance was very good and he timed my jab better than I timed his. He was a pretty good all round fighter.

[Photo credit: FightNews]

He could throw every shot in the book and though he never really buzzed me with a single shot, he’d grind you down.  Every punch, including his jab and taps to the body, was powerful.  For the first two knockdowns, he simply overwhelmed me but the finisher was a very well timed uppercut. On the night, he was a level above me. No complaints.

We’ve stayed in touch and Miguel messaged me to wish me well before my last fight. I’d like to see him win against Vargas because he seemed a decent fella and it will reflect better on me. But it’s a real 50-50 fight. I watched Vargas’ draw with Salido and it was a carnage. He’s class; definitely in the top two or three in the division. He brings more experience and has mixed in better calibre than Berchelt so will start as favourite but Miguel is fresher and might have the better work rate.

It’s very hard to pick (a winner) but it’s definitely going to be a ‘tear-up’. Given their styles, it can only be a war.


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