Emanuel Navarrete is keeping his title…
In an all-out slugfest on ESPN, the 28-year-old Mexican boxer (38-1, 31 KOs) retained his WBO junior lightweight title against Oscar Valdez via unanimous decision by scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 119-109. ESPN scored it 116-112.
“I feel happy to have been part of this … next great chapter of Mexican boxing history,” Navarrete said through an interpreter. “I am happy and appreciate Oscar for the great fight that we delivered.”
“Thank God I won,” he added. “I appreciate what he did in the ring. He is a Mexican warrior. If people want a rematch, they will demand it.”
Round after round, Navarrete fired punches from awkward angles, rarely setting his feet. He uncorked looping right hands and lefts from uncanny trajectories while in constant motion. He totaled a dizzying 1,038 punches for the fight, more than double the output of Valdez, who threw just 436.
Valdez (31-2, 23 KOs) was content to march forward and exchange with Navarrete, a strategy that rarely worked. When he took a step back, he often missed wildly on home run swings. He did, however, connect plenty with his left hook, the same shot that brutally knocked out Miguel Berchelt in 2021 to win the WBC junior lightweight title.
When Valdez drilled Navarrete with the counter left hook in Round 2 and the champion didn’t so much as budge, it was clear trouble was in store for the challenger.
Slowly but surely, Valdez’s right eye closed and turned purple under duress from Navarrete’s punishing, whirlwind attack. Even when Navarrete indicated that his right hand was injured late in the fight, he continued to throw with his power hand.
“It was a small inflammation in my right hand,” Navarrete said. “But the more you hit it, the tougher it gets. But I had to overcome it.”
Navarrete entered the fight rated No. 2 by ESPN at junior lightweight after he defeated Australia’s Liam Wilson to win the vacant title in February. Wilson stepped in six months ago to replace Valdez, who was injured, and almost pulled off the upset. Wilson scored a knockdown in Round 4 of Navarrete’s 130-pound debut, but Navarrete rallied to stop him in Round 9.
On Saturday night, Navarrete scored not just a second victory at 130 pounds but the biggest win of his career.
“He is a warrior,” said Valdez, who lived in Tucson, Arizona, during parts of his childhood. “I tried my best. We gave it our best. He is a warrior. He is a true champion.”
“I’m sorry I disappointed everyone,” Valdez added. “I feel terrible. I wanted to give you all a great fight. I hope you enjoyed the fight. I hope to return strong.”
A two-time Olympian, Valdez, 32, emerged with his face badly bruised and swollen, the product of Navarrete’s thudding shots. Of course, he’s no stranger to fighting through trying circumstances.
In a 2018 featherweight title defense against Scott Quigg, Valdez battled through a broken jaw to win a decision. His jaw was wired shut afterward.
He has been floored multiple times in his career but always bounced back to win outside of his fight last year against pound-for-pound talent Shakur Stevenson. And now, for the second time in three outings, Valdez will look to bounce back.
Navarrete, meanwhile, appears to be improving with each fight and each new weight class. He made his pro debut in 2012 at 112 pounds and won his first title in 2018 when he upset Isaac Dogboe. He then turned back Dogboe in the rematch before notching four more junior featherweight defenses against limited opposition.
At 126 pounds, Navarrete defeated Ruben Villa in 2020 to capture a vacant title and went on to score far more impressive wins against quality opponents, including victories over Joet Gonzalez and Eduardo Baez.
He has defeated the top boxer in ESPN‘s 130-pound ratings and once again was able to overwhelm his foe with not just volume but bruising power.
Navarrete will continue to be in demand, a champion on top of his weight class who consistently delivers action fights — and another in a long line of brave fighters from Mexico.