The May 11 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN will feature a pair of rematches with challengers looking to regain the world titles from the men who defeated them.
Top Rank announced Monday that a card that was expected has been finalized and will feature rematches between junior lightweight world titlist Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas in the main event and junior featherweight world titlist Emanuel Navarrete taking on Isaac Dogboe in the co-feature at the Tucson Convention Center in Tucson, Arizona. Both bouts will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET.
“We’re all looking forward to this card. Berchelt-Vargas and Navarrete-Dogboe were incredible action fights the first time around, and the rematches will provide fireworks,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.
Berchelt (35-1, 31 KOs) and Vargas (25-1-2, 18 KOs) were originally supposed to meet in a sequel on March 23 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, but the fight was postponed because Berchelt suffered a right hand injury during training camp.
They first met in January 2017 and Berchelt, 27, of Mexico, stopped his countryman Vargas, 34, on cuts in the 11th round of a brutal and bloody fight to win a 130-pound world title. That fight produced great action as they combined to land 760 of 1,979 punches, according to CompuBox punch statistics.
“Francisco Vargas is a great Mexican warrior, just like I am,” said Berchelt, who will be making his fifth title defense. “I am training at my best to prove once again that I am not only better than him, but that I am the best 130-pounder in the world.”
Vargas won the title from Takashi Miura by comeback ninth-round knockout in the epic 2015 ESPN fight of the year and made one successful defense, a draw with Orlando Salido in the similarly action-packed 2016 ESPN fight of the year.
But severe facial cuts took their toll on Vargas in both bouts and again when he lost the title to Berchelt. Vargas has since had surgery to remove scar tissue and given himself time to heal and has won two fights in a row. He will be coming off a 13-month layoff.
“I have no doubt that 2019 will be my big comeback year,” Vargas said. “The three wise men came bearing gifts, and one of them is my highly awaited rematch against Miguel Berchelt on May 11. Like I said before our first fight, Mexicans never back down, and I will show that once again in the ring.”
The fight was made thanks to cooperation between rivals Top Rank, which co-promotes Berchelt, and Vargas promoter Golden Boy Promotions.
“The first fight between Francisco Vargas and Miguel Berchelt was a war,” said Golden Boy president Eric Gomez. “Vargas came up short that night, but it’s been his only loss. Since then, he’s gotten a lot better by training with Joel Diaz, so I’m even more confident now that Vargas will get his belt back. Golden Boy Promotions is committed to making the best fights, and we’re happy to be working with Top Rank and Zanfer Promotions to make another classic battle.”
Navarrete (26-1, 22 KOs), 24, of Mexico, who has won 21 fights in a row, scored an upset unanimous decision to take the 122-pound belt from Dogboe (20-1, 14 KOs), 24, of Ghana, in a mandatory fight on Dec. 8 in New York on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza undercard. Navarrete won by scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113.
“I am ready to show the world that our first fight was no accident,” Navarrete said. “I am the better fighter, and I will show that again. Dogboe made a mistake in taking this rematch.”
Dogboe attributed his loss to Navarrete to a poor training camp and campaigned hard for his team to get the rematch for him.
“Look, in my last fight, I wasn’t fit. I underestimated Emanuel Navarrete,” Dogboe said. “But you know something, at my lowest, he couldn’t knock me out. This fight, May 11, it’s a guarantee — Isaac Dogboe is here to set the record straight. Tucson, it’s going down. You don’t want to miss this fight. It’s a fight people are going to be talking about for a very, very long time. A fit Isaac ‘Royal Storm’ Dogboe is a dangerous Isaac ‘Royal Storm’ Dogboe. May 11, I’m coming for my title.”