THE Banc of California Stadium – the home of Los Angeles FC – will host its first-ever boxing event this Saturday (August 17). The outdoor venue, which opened in April last year, was initially set to stage a welterweight clash between Jose Benavidez Jnr and Luis Collazo this weekend. That was until Benavidez suffered a leg injury during training in July, leading the fight to be shelved, likely until October. Following the postponement of Benavidez-Collazo, the chief support bout between 24-year-old Mexico natives Emanuel Navarrete and Francisco De Vaca was bumped up to headline status, with ESPN televising. The contest will mark Navarrete’s second defence of his WBO super-bantamweight belt. For De Vaca, who is positioned at No. 11 in the WBO ratings, it will be a first scheduled 12-rounder.

“This is a great opportunity to defend my title against an exciting fighter,” Navarrete said. “I’ve worked hard to prove myself as a true champion – I won’t let anyone take that away from me. It’s going to be a great night outside in Los Angeles.”

Although the match-up represents a major jump up in class for De Vaca, the unbeaten challenger is confident he’ll demonstrate that he belongs at the top level.

“This is the fight of my life,” De Vaca stated. “I’m going to show everyone that I deserve to be on the world stage. I’m not going to talk any trash. I have a lot of respect for Navarrete, but his reign will end on August 17.”

De Vaca is a Top Rank stablemate of Navarrete, with the latter being jointly guided by Zanfer Promotions. While Navarrete is still based in his homeland in Mexico City, De Vaca now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where all but two of his 20 professional outings have been held.

Isaac Dogboe vs Navarrete
WBO champion Navarrete beats Isaac Dogboe Mikey Williams/Top Rank

De Vaca has not put a foot wrong so far in the pros, having won all of his bouts, though only six have come inside the distance. His most notable victim is former WBC bantamweight title contestant Christian Esquivel. However, the sixth-round KO win that De Vaca registered against Esquivel in February 2018 was no real statement, considering he had been defeated inside time on 12 occasions beforehand and five times since.

Unlike De Vaca, Navarrete is known for his punching power, with 23 of his 27 triumphs coming by way of knockout or stoppage (against one early-career points loss). Going into his WBO title tilt against the much-fancied Isaac Dogboe eight months ago, Navarrete was an unknown quantity, much like De Vaca is now. Yet Navarrete grabbed his opportunity with both hands, unanimously outscoring Dogboe to claim the crown. He solidified his standing in the rematch five months later by impressively pummelling his way to success inside 12 rounds.

Just as Navarrete did when his big chance came against Dogboe, it is possible that De Vaca could step out of the shadows and emerge as a prime talent. The expected outcome, though, is for the pressure-fighting Navarrete to continue his upwards trajectory by retaining his title. With De Vaca being happy to trade on the inside, the rangy and solid-chinned Navarrete will be able to locate openings for his punishing uppercuts and clattering combinations, leading to a victory inside the course.

The undercard features some noteworthy names in Las Vegas’ ex-WBO super-bantam boss Jessie Magdaleno, South African fringe contender Chris van Heerden, Kazakhstan’s previous amateur standout Janibek Alimkhanuly and Los Angeles’ touted Arnold Barboza Jnr. They are slated for respective 10-rounders against Mexico’s Rafael Rivera, Russia’s Aslanbek Kozaev, Canadian Stuart McClellan and Mexican Jose Luis Rodriguez.

The Verdict The main event Mexican derby should go down extremely well with the large local Hispanic population.