EMANUEL NAVARRETE has only lost once, that being a four-rounder on points way back in 2012, when he was a 17-year-old novice. In the 11 years since he has never shied away from facing the toughest opposition available, not only beating them in style, but also in a manner that nearly always thrilled. Yet, some way, somehow, the respect that Navarette should be afforded has escaped him. Perhaps that will change for the WBO super-featherweight titlist following his 12-round decision victory over highly regarded challenger and former belt holder, Oscar Valdez, at the Desert Diamond Arena.
Valdez opened as the betting favorite. There was an additional rush of late money on him the day of the fight. There were many out there who simply did not think Navarrete, 28, was that good. Those wagering on Valdez held the belief that he would summon a performance comparable to when he stopped Miguel Berchelt a little under two years ago. But those skeptics surely must now realise that Navarette is a different breed, one that simply refuses to lose. He can be outboxed and outfought at times but outlasting him is another matter.
Top Rank centered the promotion around it being a Mexican Civil war. Julio Cesar Chavez was there doing commentary. They brought in Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales who were involved in fight week activities and sat next to the other during the match, reminding the public of their exciting trilogy, promising that Navarrete and Valdez would deliver the same on fight night. They didn’t lie.
Despite Navarrete saying afterward he would gladly do an encore, this had the feeling of a one and done rivalry. Not that Navarrete was so dominant that Valdez’s chances of winning a rematch would be as discounted as, say, Errol Spence’s would be if he had another go at Terence Crawford. But when both left the ring, one was under the distinct impression that Valdez, with his face battered and body exhausted, had left it all in the ring. It’s difficult to imagine him summoning a greater effort than he did on this night. Conversely, Navarrete, unmarked, left the impression he could improve, not that there was anything wrong with it at all.
Unlike the Barrera-Morales fights, where the decisions were controversial, the only contention here was the wide scoring of judges Lisa Giampa (119-109) and Chris Wilson (118-110). Zachary Young’s 116-112 was more in line with how the majority viewed it. Wes Melton was the referee.
It did not take long for this one to heat up. Navarrete got off to an uncharacteristically fast start. Long jabs kept Valdez off balance. Forced to the ropes, Valdez was under some duress. But he fired back with hard left hooks, some landing cleanly. By the fourth round it was Valdez who started to look worse for wear, his face reddened from the accumulation of blows.
Fighting Navarrete is akin to dealing with a series of violent waves in the ocean, with each new wave growing higher and harder to avoid. His overall work-rate was something Valdez could not contain nor compete against. Valdez landed well from time to time and came on strongly in the middle of the match, but he seemed more intent on landing one big punch than he was in winning rounds. Valdez, 32, was getting overwhelmed.
In the ninth round Navarrete shook his right hand in pain. And when he appeared to stagger backward from a blow – in reality, the result of getting his foot stepped on – for a moment the belt-holder appeared to be faltering. But it was all an illusion. Navarrete regrouped. A torrid 10th round had Barrera up and cheering at the end of the session. Navarrete was back in control.
Valdez’s right eye was shut and he could hardly see some of the blows coming at him, but the man who fought on with a broken jaw against Scott Quigg, once again proved he is one of the gutsiest fighters in the sport by refusing to submit. Navarrete was a whirlwind in the final round. Valdez tried to keep up but, again, could not. The final bell rang. Valdez’s body slumped. He knew he had lost. For Navarrete he calmly walked to his corner. There was no big celebration. He knows how good he is.
The undercard was a bit on the weak side. The biggest splash was made by 24-year-old Richard Torrez Jnr, a 2020 Olympic Silver medalist, who stopped 40-year-old Indiana fighter Willie Jake Jnr at 1-22 of the first round of a scheduled six. Jake never recovered after getting dropped by a right hook. He struggled up late in the count and was unable to ward off the Californian’s follow up attack. As soon as referee Robert Hoyle stepped in to stop it, Jake, totally spent, went down again, justifying the official’s decision.
Both tried their best, but Lindolfo Delgado’s unanimous 10-round decision over fellow Mexican Jair Valtierra was simply dreadful to watch. Delgado was awarded two scores of 99-91, the other being 98-92.
The youngest son of former star, Fernando Vargas, created a buzz in his scheduled four. Emiliano Vargas, 19 and from Las Vegas, dropped Mexican Jorge Alvarado twice en route to a stoppage win at 2-17 of the second round.
THE VERDICT: Navarrete proves his class to leave plucky Valdez beaten, bloody and bruised.