Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Navarro, Rodela get back to winning on FNC card


LOS ANGELES – The career of former junior bantamweight contender Jose Navarro came back to life on the Fight Night Club card Thursday night.

The 2000 U.S. Olympian from Los Angeles had lost his previous three fights – two in 115-pound title fights – and considered retirement before making the decision to give boxing and his dreams of winning a world title one more try.

He took a small but nice step at Club Nokia, easily outpointing tough journeyman Benji Garcia of San Diego in a six-round bantamweight fight.

It was Navarro’s first victory since 2007.

“I just wanted to get a win,” Navarro said with a smile. “ÔǪ I missed it. I was used to winning, as an amateur and a pro. It feels great. It’s just a part of me. It’s hard to leave something you love, especially when you feel you still have it.”

Navarro (27-5, 12 knockouts) said he felt some rust because he hasn’t fought since October, when he was stopped by Michael Domingo in eight rounds in the Philippines.

However, he looked like the seasoned veteran that he is. Garcia (14-15-3, 1 KO) is the kind of awkwardly aggressive opponent who can make a good fighter look bad but Navarro calmly and efficiently picked him apart.

Navarro won every round on all three cards, his first step toward his oh-so-elusive goal. He has lost a total of four major title fights, at least three of which were so close they could’ve gone his way.

Of course, there are no guarantees that he’ll get fifth chance but that’s his motivation. He doesn’t want to retire without feeling that belt around his waist.

“I’m gonna give it one more try,” he said. “And I’m going to get it. I’m going to keep working hard. I believe you can get anything if you keep working.”

David Rodela also preserved his hopes of becoming an elite fighter against Puerto Rican Eric Cruz in the eight-round lightweight main event.

The Oxnard, Calif., product also has struggled of late. He had won 13 consecutive fights but completely lost his momentum by losing his last two, the most-recent a third-round TKO against Dante Jardon in March.

And he had no easy assignment against Cruz (7-3-3, 7 KOs), a capable, disciplined fighter who stalked Rodela the entire fight. However, Rodela, the superior boxer, narrowly outworked Cruz to win a split decision in a grueling fight.

Two judges scored it 77-75 for Rodela and the third had it 78-74 for Cruz.

In another undercard bout, prospect Frankie Gomez of East Los Angeles, the former amateur star, stopped Akeem Akinbode (1-3-1, 1 KO) of Nigeria only 46 seconds into a scheduled four-round welterweight bout.

Gomez, a silver medalist in last year’s world amateur championships, came out winging hard, fast punches from the opening bell and didn’t stop until the referee waved off the fight to protect his defenseless opponent.

Gomez has stopped all three of his opponents.

“After he landed one punch, I realized he didn’t have anything so I went for the knockout,” Gomez said.

Gomez, 18, is expected to fight once a month while he develops as a professional. He is scheduled to fight on the June 24 Fight Night Club card and on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz undercard on July 31 in Las Vegas.

And Ramon Valadez of Los Angeles, making his pro debut, outpointed Javier Romero (0-4-1) of L.A. in a four-round welterweight fight. Valadez, 20, trains in the same gym as Gomez but his last amateur bout took place three years ago.