Navarro not ready to leave boxing yet
Jose Navarro is not finished with boxing, yet.
Perhaps he should be done with the sport after what he’s been through. The 28-year-old veteran admits that he’s contemplated hanging up his gloves but he is going to give it one more honest effort before he calls it quits for good.
Why? Navarro (26-5, 13 knockouts), a 2000 Olympian who was Top-10 junior bantamweight contender for much of the last decade, still feels fire in his belly.
The South-Central Los Angeles native believes he can be a factor in the suddenly hot bantamweight division and the first step in proving it begins on Thursday, when his scheduled six-round bout against journeyman Benji Garcia (14-14-3, 1 KO) kicks off the televised portion of Fight Night Club at Club Nokia in downtown L.A.
Navarro’s bout — as well as the David Rodela-Eric Cruz main event and a four-rounder featuring 140-pound prospect Frankie Gomez — will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net (tape delayed) and streamed live online at www.ustream.com and www.RingTV.com at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET.
It will be Navarro’s first bout in Los Angeles in six years.
“I’m excited about fighting at home,” he said. “The last time I fought in L.A. was on the (Vitali) Klitschko-(Cory) Sanders undercard at Staples Center in 2004.”
Navarro, 19-0 at the time, looked good dismantling Martin Armenta over five rounds that night. He was just one fight away from challenging Katsushige Kawashima for the Japanese beltholder’s 115-pound title in Tokyo in January of 2005.
Navarro put on a boxing clinic against the rugged banger, slicing the pressure fighter’s face to ribbons over 12 rounds, but he was not rewarded for his skill or ring generalship. Kawashima kept his title with a controversial split decision.
The two judges who scored the bout for Kawashima had the popular fighter winning by narrow scores of 115-114 and 115-113. The third judge scored a near shutout for Navarro, tallying 120-109 for the crafty southpaw boxer. However, that dissenting scorecard was little consolation for the young contender.
“It was my first loss as a pro, so it hurt; it definitely affected me,” Navarro said. “I probably wasn’t even aware of it at the time but now that I look back on it I can see where it took away from my desire for the sport.
“But I had to put the disappointment out of my mind because the bottom line was that I didn’t have a world title. I wanted that championship belt for my father, who had passed away from prostrate cancer about a year before the (Kawashima) fight. That was always his dream and it became mine. I wanted to win it to honor his memory.”
Navarro gave the dream his best shot, returning to Japan to challenge veteran beltholder Masamori Tokuyama in June of 2006 and then traveling to Russia to battle Dmitry Kirillov for a vacant title in October of 2007, but he came up short both times, losing very close decisions to the native fighters.
“Losing those fights was tough,” Navarro said. “Friends and family would tell me how it wasn’t fair that I always had to challenge guys in their home country and I couldn’t disagree with them, but that’s what I had to do. Maybe I would have won those fights if they took place in the States but the reality was that the titles were overseas and it paid good money to travel to my opponents' home countries.”
The reality was also that Navarro was running out of chances to win a world title. When he dropped a split decision to Mexico’s talented Christian Mijares in his fourth title try in February of 2008, most fans figured it was the end of the road for the game contender.
So did Navarro.
“I was thinking about letting it go after the Mijares fight,” he said. “I didn’t quit, but I was considering it. I had put the money I made in my title fights away, so I had a nest egg. All I needed was to find another line of work if I really wanted out.
“I got a day job doing personal training at the Crunch Fitness on Sunset (Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif.), where I met some really great people, including a few actors, who helped me make a living outside of boxing.”
But Navarro wasn’t done with the sport. He took a fight against Michael Domingo in the Philippines last October and was stopped in the eighth round after sustaining bad cuts over both of his eyes.
One would think the technical knockout, his third consecutive loss, closed the book on his career but it only served to eventually reignite his inner fire.
With is future in boxing unclear, Navarro focused more on his personal training duties and wound up taking his top clients at Crunch, which included respected film actor Sam Rockwell and CSI: Miami star Adam Rodriguez, to the Fortune Gym in Hollywood, at the start of the year.
When he wasn’t training clients, Navarro worked out by himself. It didn’t take long for him to begin feeling the passion for the sport again.
“What can I say? I love the game,” Navarro said. “I come from a boxing family. I fought my first competitive fight when I was 4. The trophy I won was as big as I was. Boxing is in my blood.”
Navarro caught the attention of another boxing lifer, veteran trainer Jesse Reid, while training at Fortune Gym.
Reid, who observed Navarro for weeks, says he knew the boxer still had some fight left in him.
“I’m the one who approached him,” Reid said. “I watched him for about two months and I saw that gleam in his eye. I saw that he still wanted to be a fighter.”
Reid, who trained hall of famer Orlando Canizales, Johnny Tapia, Roger Mayweather and a dozen other notable fighters, has worked with Navarro for about a month and a half. He’s convinced the young veteran can be a force at bantamweight.
“He’s so slick and accurate,” Reid said. “He’s going to be very, very good at 118 pounds. I think what was hurting him at junior bantamweight was cutting those last three pounds. It took away from his legs and reflexes, which is everything for a boxer like Jose.”
If Reid is correct, Navarro might soon find himself in some very interesting high-profile matchups.
Bantamweight is currently the home of unified beltholder Fernando Montiel, popular veteran Jorge Arce, unbeaten standouts Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares, and seasoned former titleholders Eric Morel and Joseph Agbeko. Junior bantamweight standouts Nonito Doanire and Vic Darchinyan may soon join the 118-pound ranks.
“Any division that has those names in it is a good division to be fighting in,” Navarro said.
“Bantamweight is hot right now,” Reid said. “It’s a division where Jose can make some good money.”
Money, however, is not Navarro’s motivation.
“I still want that world title,” he said. “I’m still trying to get it for my father. I’m going to be patient and gradually move up the ladder, but I’m going to make an impression on Thursday and show people that I’m serious about this comeback.”