Miguel Berchelt KO's Jonathan Victor Barros in third round to retain title

Junior lightweight world titleholder Miguel Berchelt, bigger, faster and stronger, imposed himself on Jonathan Victor Barros in a one-sided, third-round knockout victory on Saturday night at the Poliforum Zamna in Berchelt's adopted hometown of Merida, Mexico.

Berchelt applied relentless pressure to Barros, a former featherweight world titleholder, knocking him down three times to retain his 130-pound world title for the third time as his hometown crowd cheered wildly the ending of a fight streamed on ESPN+ in the United States.

The 26-year-old Berchelt (34-1, 30 KOs) was in control all the way. Late in the second round, Berchelt caught Barros with a right-left combination along the ropes to score the first knockdown.

Berchelt continued to attack Barros in the third round. He nailed Barros with an overhand right about 45 seconds into the round for the second knockdown when Barros was forced to put both gloves on the mat to steady himself.

At that point Barros was in serious trouble as Berchelt swarmed him and began teeing off with a two-handed attack. Barros tried to hold on to keep from going down again, but moments later Berchelt unloaded a flurry of punches and he hit the deck for the third time under heavy fire.

Barros (41-6-1, 22 KOs), 34, of Argentina, beat the count but his trainer came into the ring to save him as referee Michael Griffin waved off the fight at 1 minute, 53 seconds, though Barros protested the stoppage.

Berchelt had not boxed in Merida since March 2016 and spent much of the build-up to the fight talking about how happy he was to fight at home again, especially in a title defense.

With the victory secured, Berchelt is next due to face countryman and mandatory challenger Miguel "Mickey" Roman (59-12, 46 KOs) as long as he won his own fight in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Saturday night against Michel Marcano (17-0-1, 14 KOs), 28, of Venezuela, to maintain his mandatory status.

With former world titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king, moving up to the lightweight division in May, Berchelt is widely considered the No. 1 fighter at 130 pounds, a weight class that also includes titleholder Gervonta "Tank" Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), of Baltimore, and secondary titlist Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KOs), of Puerto Rico.

Berchelt won his belt by 11th-round knockout of Francisco Vargas in January 2017 in Indio, California, and defended it against former world titlist Takashi Miura by unanimous decision last July in Inglewood, California, and by third-round knockout of Maxwell Awuku in February in Cancun, where Berchelt was born.

If Berchelt wins his mandatory defense, he said he would like to face another of the titleholders.

Barros, who has had his past four fights in four different countries -- Mexico, England, Japan and Argentina -- lost his second fight in a row, both world title bouts. Last July, he traveled to London and a seven-fight winning streak halted when then-featherweight world titlist Lee Selby knocked him down in the 12th round and won a unanimous decision.

Barros, who has lost to other well-known opponents Mikey Garcia and Yuriorkis Gamboa, held a featherweight world title from 2010 to 2011 and made two successful defenses, including one against Roman.