Emanuel Navarrete Outlasts Joet Gonzalez to Retain WBO Featherweight Title

Emanuel Navarrete is keeping his title…

The 26-year-old Mexican professional boxer successfully defended his WBO featherweight title with a 118-110, 116-112, 116-112 unanimous decision over Joet Gonzalez, it was a constant action bout that could end up being a candidate for fight of the year.

Emanuel Navarrete

Neither fighter went down — although Navarrete (35-1, 29 KO) fell multiple times during the fight due to tripping. Both fighters threw a massive number of punches instead of being more patient in what they tried to land.

“The difference was the conditioning,” Navarrete said through an interpreter after the fight on ESPN. “It was a pretty close fight, but I think the conditioning was the difference.”

Navarrete won the fight, but Gonzalez showed how good of a fighter he can be. The 28-year-old Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KO) did what many other fighters cannot do — seemingly handle Navarrete’s high work rate well. At times, Gonzalez matched Navarrete’s constant flurries of punches with combinations of his own. It helped keep the fight competitive, even as Gonzalez’s face continued to get cut.

“It was a close fight. I thought I had the win,” Gonzalez said. “I hurt him, I believe, in the third or fourth round with a right hand. He buckled. Yeah, I thought I had the fight, man. I honestly did. I thought I had it seven rounds to five, eight rounds to four.

“I was really surprised by that score, 118-110, I believe. But it is what it is, man. I came, and I did my best.”

This, though, was the type of fight Navarrete wanted. After the victory, he said he wants to be in big fights in the future and would be open to a rematch against Gonzalez — a fight Navarrete said he would win again.

Navarrete’s power started to show in the second round, when he first cut Gonzalez with a gash under the right eye that became even bigger in the third round and appeared to reopen multiple times. After the cut was initially created by a left from Navarrete, Gonzalez’s cut man, Mike Bazzel, told ringside reporter Mark Kriegel that he was more concerned about the swelling underneath Gonzalez’s eye — swelling he worked on between almost every round.

“I felt good,” Gonzalez said. “He did catch me with a punch.”

Gonzalez said the swelling didn’t bother him much throughout the remainder of the fight. By the eighth round, Gonzalez’s white trunks had become partially pink and red. But Gonzalez, despite the cuts and the plethora of punches from Navarrete, continued to throw and land combinations, handling whatever hard power punches Navarrete threw.

Despite the champion’s power, Gonzalez rarely appeared in real trouble of being knocked down.

“Without a doubt I hurt him, but every single time he came back,” Navarrete said. “And he hurt me. A couple shots landed, hurt me during the fight.”

Navarrete threw 979 punches during the fight — an average of 81.6 per round. Almost half those punches — 406 of them — were jabs, a career high. He landed 272 punches (27.8%). Gonzalez threw 667 punches in the fight, an average of 55.6 per round, landing 169 (25.3%).

It was a work rate typical of a Navarrete fight, but something difficult to prepare for or truly understand due to the angles he throws punches from and the style he fights with. Gonzalez, in his second attempt at claiming a title, showed he can handle that — even if he didn’t win a belt.

Junior dos Santos to Make Wrestling Debut This Week for All Elite Wrestling

Junior dos Santos is movin’ from the Octagon to the ring…

The 37-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and former UFC light heavyweight champion will make his professional wrestling match debut on Friday for All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

Junior Dos Santos

The news comes after his release from the UFC earlier this year.

And dos Santos told ESPN on Wednesday that he is also in talks about making his debut in boxing.

“Let’s see,” dos Santos said. “I’ve been having some good conversations, even on boxing. Boxing, I think, would be the perfect way for me to go. I’m a boxing guy, everybody knows that. I’ve never had an official pro boxing fight. Maybe this is the time.”

Dos Santos didn’t go into detail about when he might fight in boxing or who the opponent could be, because he said he’s focusing right now on his work with AEW.

On Friday, “Cigano” will team with wrestlers Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky in a tag-team match against wrestling legend Chris JerichoJake Hager (who also fights for Bellator) and Sammy Guevara.

The match is part of an AEW storyline that involves dos Santos’ American Top Team MMA team backing up Page and Sky with American Top Team owner Dan Lambert as their on-screen manager.

Dos Santos and several other ATT fighters — including UFC veteran Paige VanZant, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and PFL champion Kayla Harrison — made their first AEW appearances as part of this storyline in August and September. Some have gotten physical in segments, but dos Santos will be the first one to actually wrestle in a match.

“I wasn’t really a big fan of it [before],” dos Santos said. “But this thing changed a lot. After Dan Lambert invited me to go there and see how hard it is. It’s not a joke, man. Those guys, they go hard. And they have to be very well-prepared for that. So, then when I saw all of it, I got very interested in it. And then I said, ‘Man, I want to do it.’ Ask Dan Lambert. I was saying, ‘Man, I need to be in that ring.'”

dos Santos said the most “amazing” thing for him was the loud, raucous pro wrestling crowds and how they interacted with the show.

“That type of energy was amazing to feel,” dos Santos said. “A long time, I don’t feel this way. Long time, I don’t feel this excited to go in the ring and perform and give the best of me and my performance. Man, I’m looking forward to Friday night.

“Back in the day, in the UFC and MMA itself, I was feeling kind of pressure all the time. I wasn’t being appreciated to be there. Now, it’s different. People love me to be there, even if they don’t like me. They are showing that.”

dos Santos was released by the UFC in March following four straight losses, though they all came against elite heavyweights.

dos Santos held the UFC heavyweight title in 2011 and 2012. He owns MMA victories over former UFC champions Stipe MiocicCain VelasquezFabricio Werdum and Frank Mir.

This weekend, dos Santos will be in a pro wrestling ring. But don’t be surprised to see him in a boxing ring at some point in the future, either.

“Let’s see what’s gonna happen next, but the boxing thing would be amazing,” dos Santos said. “As you guys know, I love knocking people out. I love punching people in the face. That would be a good way to go.”

Jorge Masvidal to Fight Leon Edwards at UFC 269 in December

Jorge Masvidal is preparing for a grudge match

One of the most infamous backstage scuffles in UFC history will be revisited in December, when the 36-year-old Cuban and Peruvian American mixed martial artist and fellow UFC welterweight Leon Edwards have agreed to meet inside the Octagon.

Jorge Masvidal

Edwards and Masvidal will square off at UFC 269 on December 11, UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell told ESPN. Contracts have not yet been signed, but bout agreements have been sent to both parties.

This fight has held personal implications since March 2019, when Edwards and Masvidal were involved in a backstage incident at a UFC Fight Night event in London. Masvidal struck Edwards in the face after Edwards interrupted him during a postfight interview.

Later in the night, Masvidal would infamously describe the punches he landed on Edwards as a “three-piece and soda.”

Masvidal wrote in a tweet Monday: “You’re welcome #supernecessary”

In addition to settling a long-standing grudge, the matchup will have major implications on the welterweight division. Edwards (19-3) is riding a nine-fight win streak and is a strong candidate for a title shot in 2022. Masvidal (35-15) is coming off back-to-back failed title bids against Kamaru Usman in 2020 and 2021 but has said his goal is still to claim the UFC championship.

“Despite earning the next title shot, [Edwards] has always been willing to fight Jorge first, provided the terms were correct,” Edwards’ manager, Tim Simpson, told ESPN. “We are very happy with the deal, and excited to compete in December, and then for a world title thereafter.”

As a result of the UFC adding this high-profile bout to the card, a trilogy flyweight title fight between Brandon Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo has been moved to UFC 270 on January 22, according to the UFC.

UFC 270 on January 22 does not have an official location yet, but sources told ESPN the promotion is looking at Anaheim, which is only about 100 miles north of Moreno’s hometown of Tijuana, Mexico.

Charles Oliveira to Face Off Against Dustin Poirier for Lightweight Championship at UFC 269

Charles Oliveira has a new opponent…

The 31-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist (31-8) will face off against Dustin Poirier for the lightweight championship at UFC 269 on Dec. 11.

Charles Oliveira

The matchup had been in talks for weeks, and Poirier told ESPN late last month there was “a good chance” it would happen. The 32-year-old lightweight mixed martial artist wrote on social media that the bout is now official.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” Poirier wrote on Twitter.

Representatives for Poirier confirmed to ESPN he has officially agreed to the December title fight.

A win against Oliveira would cap off an amazing year for Poirier, who has been fighting professionally since 2009. The Louisiana native kicked off 2021 by knocking out Conor McGregor in January at UFC 257. He followed that up with another TKO win against McGregor at UFC 264 in July, a fight that ended when McGregor suffered a serious leg injury at the end of the opening round.

UFC 269 will mark Poirier’s second attempt at an undisputed UFC championship. He challenged former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in September 2019, and lost via submission. Poirier is a former interim UFC champion, but has never held the undisputed title.

Oliveira, 31, captured the vacant UFC title by knocking out Michael Chandler in May. Fighting out of Brazil, Oliveira is riding a nine-fight win streak that includes eight finishes.

Amanda Serrano Signs with Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions

It’s a Most Valuable moment for Amanda Serrano

The 32-year-old Puerto Rican professional boxer, mixed martial artist and professional wrestler has signed with Most Valuable Promotions, as Jake Paul expands his footprint in the boxing world by signing one of its top female fighters.

Amanda Serrano

Serrano, one of the best women’s fighters in the history of boxing, signed the promotional deal with Paul, the YouTube-star-turned-prizefighter, and his adviser, Nakisa Bidarian, who founded Most Valuable Promotions earlier this year.

Serrano is a seven-division boxing champion who has held nine titles from 115 pounds all the way up to 140 pounds. She holds the Guinness record for most boxing world championships held in different weight classes by a woman. ESPN has her ranked No. 3 among women boxers on its pound-for-pound list.

“They’re such a powerful team,” Serrano said. “I’ve seen what they’ve done in the last two years — what Jake has done, what Nakisa has done for Jake. I’m looking forward to what they can do for me.”

Amanda Serrano

Paul described Serrano as the “greatest Hispanic female athlete of all time” and said he believes she has a “massive, massive future.”

Amanda Serrano, left, became a seven-division world champion with a 2019 victory over Heather Hardy. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

“Without really much help she’s gotten this far, with just her skills,” Paul said. “She hasn’t had someone with a big platform really put her on. She’s so marketable. And really the sky’s the limit, and that’s what we do at MVP. There’s a new era of boxing and there’s a new way about promoting these fights and there’s a new way to become a big fighter. So, she already has the skills, and now we’re going to add our secret sauce into the equation.”

One of the goals, they said, is to secure Serrano with a highly anticipated matchup with Katie Taylor, ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound women’s boxer. It would be one of the biggest fights ever in women’s boxing.

Bidarian said talks are ongoing with Taylor’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, and they are targeting Taylor vs. Serrano for the second quarter of 2022 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Serrano will likely fight next on Paul’s undercard, potentially before the end of the year, and then move on to the blockbuster bout with Taylor.

“The only reason it wouldn’t get done is if the right deal isn’t presented for Amanda, and that’s Jake and I’s job to make sure that’s not the case,” Bidarian said of the Taylor fight.

Bidarian is the former CFO of the UFC and has been instrumental in helping guide Paul from being a famous YouTuber to one of the most talked about fighters in combat sports.

“I think the other part of it that we’ll be able to help [Serrano] with is negotiating the right deals, getting her the right positions for someone of her stature — whether it’s in the ring, whether it’s outside the ring, whether it’s a brand partnership, consumer products,” Bidarian said. “She should be one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world. We’re going to make sure that’s the case.”

Serrano (41-1-1) beat Yamileth Mercado in the co-main event of the card Paul headlined against former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on August 29.

A Puerto Rico native who fights out of Brooklyn, she is the unified women’s featherweight champion, holding the WBC, WBO and IBO titles in that weight class.

Serrano has won 27 straight fights, a streak that dates back to 2012. She is also 2-0-1 in mixed martial arts.

“Even this last fight, I’ve gained so much followers, I’ve gained so much attention,” Serrano said. “A lot of people, they know who I am. A lot of people know me now because of Jake.”

Paul has more than 17 million followers on Instagram, and 40% of them are women. He said after his bout with Woodley that his female followers were buzzing the most about Serrano.

“Major priority of mine [is] to push for equality in all aspects of the sport,” Paul said. “I think she’s inspiring females and creating female boxing fans, which is awesome.”

When asked if he would be bringing more boxers in via Most Valuable Promotions, Paul said potentially, but they would have to be the right fit.

“For us, it’s quality over quantity,” Paul said. “We want our fighters to be the biggest. I think there will be more. We’re not in any rush. We want to take our time and our focus right now is just on Amanda.”

Teofimo Lopez to Fight George Kambosos in October

Teofimo Lopez is officially ready to rumble…

The 24-year-old Honduran American boxer and George Kambosos have signed contracts for an undisputed lightweight title fight that will take place on October 4 at New York’s Hulu Theater at MSG, Triller COO Thorsten Meier tells ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

The fight was set for October 5, but Triller moved the fight to avoid competing with a potential wild-card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in New York. If the MLB season ended today, that game would take place on October 5.

“We want to make sure the sporting fans can see both amazing events,” Meier said.

Lopez-Kambosos will be the rare Monday evening boxing match in a sport that usually — with rare exception — holds its notable events on Saturday. It’s yet another date change for the seemingly snakebitten event.

Triller won the rights to the fight at a February purse bid with $6.018 million. The fight was planned for June 5 before it was officially set for June 19 in Miami. In the days leading up to the bout, Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.

Triller announced a rescheduled date of August 14 before it looked to stage the fight on October 17 in Sydney, Australia. Lopez balked at the government-mandated 14-day quarantine, leading to a legal battle. The IBF ultimately ruled the fight couldn’t take place in a location that requires quarantine.

The bout between Lopez, a Brooklyn native, and Kambosos, a 28-year-old Australian, was then planned for October 5.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is ESPN‘s No. 1 lightweight and No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter. He won the undisputed championship in October with a unanimous-decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), ESPN’s No. 9 lightweight, earned the title shot with a split-decision win over Lee Selby later that month.

Amanda Nunes to Defend Title Against Julianna Pena in December

Amanda Nunes is set to defend her title in December…

The 33-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist has been scheduled for her bantamweight title defense against Julianna Pena for UFC 269 on December 11, according to the UFC.

Amanda Nunes

Nunes (21-4) was supposed to face Pena (10-4) at UFC 265 earlier this month in Houston, but was forced to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. The UFC has not announced an official venue for the UFC 265 pay-per-view event, but it is likely to take place in Las Vegas.

Originally from Brazil, now fighting out of South Florida, Nunes is the UFC‘s 135- and 145-pound champion. ESPN ranks her the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world.

She has not fought since she defended her featherweight title against Megan Anderson in March. She is on a 12-fight win streak.

Pena, of Spokane, Washington, is a former winner of The Ultimate Fighter reality series and holds a 6-2 overall record in the UFC. She earned a title shot by defeating Sara McMann via submission in January.

Edgar Berlanga Agrees to Two-Fight Plan with Top Rank Boxing

Edgar Berlanga is ready to rumble… twice.

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican boxer has agreed to terms on a two-fight plan with Top Rank.

Edgar Berlanga

The first bout comes October 9 in Las Vegas against Marcelo Esteban Coceres, Berlanga said, in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing show on an ESPN platform that will lead into the Tyson FuryDeontay Wilder III fight on pay-per-view.

Berlanga’s second fight is December 11, the co-feature to Vasiliy Lomachenko‘s return in New York at Madison Square Garden. An opponent has yet to be finalized for that bout. The power-punching super middleweight Berlanga is in the midst of a multiyear deal with Top Rank. Financial terms were finalized for both of his upcoming fights.

“I’m knocking these guys in October and December; we’re not going to the scorecards,” said Berlanga (17-0, 16 KOs). “I want to let the world know after these two fights that I’m the guy they need to worry about.”

Berlanga was extended the distance for the first time in his last bout, an April win over Demond Nicholson. It was the first time Berlanga heard the bell to signal the start of Round 2 in his pro career. He scored first-round knockouts in each of his first 16 fights.

Berlanga dropped Nicholson three times but settled for the unanimous-decision victory. The Brooklynite will now face another durable opponent in Coceres (30-2-1, 16 KOs). The 30-year-old Argentine is best known for an 11th-round KO loss to Billy Joe Saunders in a 2019 title fight. That was his only fight outside of Argentina.

In January, Coceres lost again, this time a split-decision defeat to Sebastian Horacio Papeschi in Argentina. He rebounded with a second-round stoppage win in June over Nelson Nicolas Rosalez.

The two-fight plan promises to give Berlanga his greatest exposure yet as he inches closer to title contention. Despite 17 pro fights, he remains inexperienced with just 24 rounds in the professional ranks.

If all goes according to plan, Berlanga will return in March to Puerto Rico (the country his family hails from) before headlining at Madison Square Garden in June on Puerto Rican Parade Day weekend.

Yordenis Ugas Notches Upset Win Over Manny Pacquiao to Retain WBA “Super” Welterweight Title

Yordenis Ugas has taken down a legend…

The 35-year-old Cuban professional boxer scored a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to retain his WBA “super” welterweight title, pulling off an upset victory that establishes Ugas as a major player in boxing’s best division.

Yordenis Ugas,

Ugas win came on a night that was supposed to be a celebration for Pacquiao, a culmination of all the great he has accomplished — a champion in eight divisions in four decades, a superstar the world over.

Instead, Ugas, who accepted the assignment on 11 days’ notice, walked away with a unanimous decision.

Yordenis Ugas,

All three judges scored the fight for Ugas: 116-112, 115-113 and 116-112. ESPN had it 116-112 for Ugas, who won as a +310 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

“I’m very excited, but most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today,” said Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs). “Now the plan is to unify the title at welterweight. … Errol Spence is the next one on the list. … I am praying that he recuperates.”

Yordenis Ugas,

Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) was slated to meet Spence, ESPN’s No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer, in a super fight. Those plans were canceled when it was discovered Spence suffered a detached retina in his left eye just 12 days before the fight.

Ugas, a bronze medalist for Cuba in the 2008 Beijing Games and ESPN’s No. 6 welterweight, was set to defend his title against Fabian Maidana in the co-feature and didn’t hesitate to step in to fight Pacquiao when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.

“We only had two weeks of training,” Ugas said, “but I listened to my corner, and it all worked out.”

Ugas’ strategy was simple yet brilliant: a double jab to the head followed by a right hand to the body. A high guard that picked off Pacquiao’s incoming shots before a crisp right looped around Pacquiao’s gloves and connected upstairs. Counterpunches that hit the target over and over, finally cutting Pacquiao over the left eye in Round 12.

Pacquiao also was cut under his right eye during the fight. His team told ESPN afterward that he needed five stitches to close one of the cuts and had three stitches glued onto the other. They didn’t specify which cut needed which fix.

On this night, under the brightest of lights, Ugas displayed the composure of a heart surgeon, patiently picking his spots with precise punches that constantly met their mark. He also imposed his superior size and strength on Pacquiao, who perhaps was fighting in his final bout.

This 42-year-old, flat-footed version of Pacquiao was not the same fighter who vaulted to the sport with dizzying speed and combinations thrown from seemingly every angle. Now, well past his best and with a potential presidential race to prepare for, this could be it for Pacquiao.

When Pacquiao was asked if this was his final fight, he said, “I don’t know. I need to relax and make a decision.”

“That’s boxing,” he said. “I had a hard time in the ring making adjustments. … My legs were tight. I’m sorry I lost tonight, but I did my best.”

Joshua Franco Defeats Andrew Moloney to Retain Secondary WBA Title

Joshua Franco is keeping his title…

The 25-year-old Latino boxer has settled the score with Andrew Moloney, capping a rivalry that climaxed with a controversial finish in November and ended at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Saturday with a decisive victory in the ESPN main event.

Joshua Franco

Franco, nicknamed “El Profesor,” retained his secondary WBA title at 115 pounds with a unanimous decision over Moloney. All three judges scored the fight 116-112.

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez is the recognized champion at junior bantamweight.

Earlier this week, WBA president Gilberto Mendoza announced his intentions to clean up the plentiful secondary titles that have muddied the championship picture. But with the win, Franco figures to earn a shot at one of the “big four” at 115 pounds in the near future, a stacked division headlined by Juan Francisco Estrada, Gonzalez, Kazuto Ioka and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.

“I see bigger fights. I see Chocolatito, Gallo Estrada, Ioka,” said Franco, ESPN’s No. 6 boxer at 115 pounds. “For sure, this win puts me top five, on the same list as the other champions. I needed this fight to prove myself.”

Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs) consistently beat Moloney to the punch and landed the cleaner, harder shots. The bout featured plenty of inside fighting, but it was always Franco who was able to push Moloney back in those exchanges.

Despite being just 25 years old, Franco has now been a part of two boxing trilogies. He fought Oscar Negrete three consecutive times in 2018 and 2019, with a win sandwiched between two draws. Saturday’s victory over Moloney came in a third meeting.

Franco scored a unanimous decision win over Moloney (ESPN’s No. 7 115-pounder) in June 2020, when an 11th-round knockdown was the difference-maker.

In the November rematch, Moloney closed Franco’s right eye before the ringside doctor stopped the fight in Round 2.

Believing he had just exacted revenge, Moloney (21-2, 14 KOs) jumped onto the turnbuckle to celebrate. Instead, he was met by the feeling he was robbed of his biggest victory to date. Referee Russell Mora curiously ruled that the swelling was the result of an accidental clash of heads, and the fight was deemed a no-contest even after instant replay was consulted for more than 25 minutes. In reality, it was Moloney’s punches — 51 connected in just two rounds. (Franco landed 18.)

“That eye was closed by 50 jabs,” Moloney said in November. “That’s why his eye is shut — not the head-butt. There’s no head-butt. I can’t believe they took this away from me. I’ve trained my ass off for the last five months, been away from my family, and they just take it away from me. I can’t believe they didn’t give it to me. That’s why they have instant replay working right now.”

This time, instant replay did its job. Referee Jack Reiss called a knockdown in Saturday’s Round 7 after Franco fell to the canvas, but after the sequence was reviewed, the ruling was reversed.

“The call wasn’t right; I knew that I slipped,” Franco said. “When he told me they’d go to replay, I said, ‘OK, they’ll get it right.'”

The first third of Saturday’s fight was difficult to score, with tons of inside fighting. But like in the first meeting, Franco took over as the fight pushed on. His jab was the key this time around, setting up 127 power punches landed to Moloney’s 73.

“I had to switch it up on him,” said Franco, who is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya. “He thought I was going to put pressure on him the whole time. That wasn’t working, so I had to switch it up and go to my boxing skills.

“I had fun with my rhythm, with my jab, my feet. I’m comfortable in there, and that’s what I did.”