There's plenty of boxing this Saturday, but the main course takes place from the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, where Emanuel Navarette (37-1, 31 KOs) defends his WBO junior lightweight title versus Oscar Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs). Who knows if it will be another Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales, but at the very least it should an ol' fashioned slugfest between two highly accomplished Mexican prizefighters.
Generally, when two combatants of the same nationality or culture are paired together, there is oftentimes an easy narrative to draw back on past rivalries -- especially when it comes to those of Mexican descent. Top Rank is certainly not shy about leaning into this aspect.
But given the styles of the two combatants, and their history, it's certainly not a stretch to believe that a real fight will break out this weekend. Valdez, a two-division champion, is a two-fisted puncher who possesses an aggressive, hard-charging style. While Navarette is a veritable windmill, who wings punches from all angles. Leather will fly liberally in Arizona.
After losing his WBC 130-pound last year to the highly skilled Shakur Stevenson, Valdez bounced back on the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko undercard on May 20, by pounding out a 10 round decision versus old nemesis, Adam Lopez.
“I’m excited. It’s getting close," said Valdez, who held his training camp for this bout in Lake Tahoe. "It’s one of the most important fights of my career because it means everything for me to come back and win that title. I feel blessed to have this opportunity, and I’m taking advantage of it every single day so that I can accomplish my dream.”
Valdez understands that what actually makes Navarette difficult to defeat are his flaws. He's certainly not a textbook technician, but his unorthodox combinations combined with his long limbs have left opponents flummoxed and dazed. “We all know that Navarrete has an awkward style. We might not have the perfect sparring that can emulate his style. But we try to imitate him in the mittwork and strategy. He’s not your typical fighter that throws straight shots," remarked Valdez.
As for Navarette, after a long reign as the WBO featherweight belt-holder, he hit the canvas versus the unheralded Liam Wilson back in February, and had to rally to score a 9th round TKO. Perhaps it was a sign of erosion, or maybe just a letdown in not facing Valdez on this particular night after he had to pullout due to a training injury. Regardless, 'el Vaquero' found a way to win.
After being the Ring Magazine's top ranked featherweight for some time, this effort was so unimpressive, that he's not ranked in their top ten at 130 coming in. (For the record, Valdez is ranked number one at junior lightweight by Ring) To be frank, he looked like an underprepared and unmotivated fighter on that night. Something that he vows is not the case heading into this battle.
Navarette stated, "The training camp has been intense. The preparation was very tough. Fortunately, we were able to carry it out quite well. I had always done things in a conventional way, but now we have included a physical trainer, Francisco Javier Orozco. This fight with Valdez merited that change, and I will come into this fight much better physically."
For him, a victory over Valdez would the biggest of his career. A sort of validation of him as a fighter.
"Winning this fight would boost my career significantly. Personally, I would feel complete. What has been missing in my career is precisely a victory against someone like Valdez. It would fill me with pride to be part of such an iconic fight between Mexicans and come out victorious," he stated. "People know that I throw a lot of punches and that I’m always in attractive fights. Now, with Valdez, I believe it will be twice as spectacular. Valdez is a fighter who doesn't hold back. We always see him moving forward and throwing punches."
Mikey Williams for Top Rank
Regardless of who comes out victorious, you get the feeling that another memorable chapter in Mexican boxing history will be added.
“I always tell people that I grew up during the era of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera," says Valdez, who is mindful of his place in history. "Those two fighters inspired me to be the fighter that I am today. So, to leave something similar in history would mean the world to me.”
This week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule', Mario Lopez and I preview this aforementioned fight, Jake Paul-Nate Diaz, and discuss the Anthony Joshua situation, along with everything else in boxing. Here's the YouTube link to the latest show:
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There's plenty of other boxing on this Saturday. Robert Helenius has been tabbed as the late replacement for Dillian Whyte to face Anthony Joshua in London on DAZN. Hey activity is activity....Then on Showtime from Oxon Hill, MD, Emanuel Rodriguez-Melvin Lopez (for the vacant IBF bantamweight title) headlines a triple-header....Top Rank announced on Wednesday that Raymond Muratalla has withdrawn from the co-main on Saturday due to a training injury. Now, the bout between Lindelfo Delgado and Jair Valtierra will replace it as the ESPN co-feature....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....