Emanuel Navarette contemplates move to featherweight, hopes to secure Naoya Inoue first
The only thing slowing down Emanuel Navarrete, or preventing him from fighting as of late, is the COVID-19 pandemic.
If he had it his way, Navarrete would continue fighting often as has been doing over the last several months. Instead, the WBO junior featherweight titleholder is doing what every fighter is doing nowadays: staying in the gym and awaiting word on when fights can be scheduled.
Mexico implemented a 30-day government shutdown of non-essential businesses, which is scheduled to end on April 30 but will likely be extended. But as much as the Mexico City resident is frustrated that the pandemic has temporarily altered plans for future fights, Navarrete, who is ranked No. 2 by The Ring, does see the bigger picture.
“This is really complicated for me,” said the titleholder in an online interview with Top Rank’s Lupe Contreras. “I’m constantly working and fighting, and all of a sudden, the pandemic arrives, and we had to put the brakes on because I was used to fighting every two months.
“Right now, I would’ve been in the hardest stage of my preparation for my next bout, but we are dealing with the pandemic. I haven’t let it affect me that much because I fought like 15 to 20 days before the pandemic started, but the way I was fighting, it was going to be complicated to stay as active. Right now, everything is very calm. I’ve installed a few machines just to have a gym at home. I’m maintaining my conditioning, so I can be ready whenever we get back to the ring. I’ll be ready to face any fighter.”
Navarrete (31-1, 27 knockouts) last appeared in the ring on February 22 in Las Vegas, stopping Jeo Santisima of the Philippines in Round 11. During the fight, the 25-year-old suffered an injury to his right hand that will prevent him from hitting the mitts for several weeks.
Navarrete was disappointed about the injury, but there was a silver lining to being part of the huge card that was headlined by Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
“It was a dream come true for me,” said Navarrete, who is co-promoted by Top Rank and Zanfer Promotions. “It was always one of my goals to fight in an event that big. I still think that I could be the co-main event to an event like that, but taking into consideration that I only have been champion for a year, and I’ve already been part of such a big event as Wilder vs. Fury II, I think it puts me in a great position in boxing. That was iconic. I feel happy because that was my fifth title defense, and I did it on a pay-per-view (telecast). That was personally a special moment in my journey as champion. We feel very proud, happy and satisfied.”
Navarrete became a world titleholder in December 2018, defeating Isaac Dogboe by unanimous decision in what was then considered an upset. In a rematch, five months later, Navarrete battered Dogboe, dropping him multiple times before the fight was stopped in Round 12. It was the first of five straight knockouts in world title defenses over a nine-month period.
Despite the modest level of opposition he has defeated, Navarrete has gained confidence and a measure of satisfaction in providing knockout victories for boxing fans.
“I believe that we have done a lot of good things in a short amount of time. The fans are used to watching me fight because I’ve been fighting every month and a half or every two months at the most. Seeing me fight constantly created that connection and love with the fans.
“There are times that I have the fight figured out, and it becomes easy for me to get the victory. I could cruise like we say in boxing, but I’m always going for the knockout. It doesn’t matter if my hands are hurt. It hasn’t happened yet, but even if I suffer a cut, or talking negatively, [I’m] having my worst moment in a fight, I would still be looking to drop my opponent and go for the knockout. I believe the fans appreciate that I always try to knock out my opponents.”
There has been speculation lately as to when Navarrete will move up to 126 pounds. Before that inevitable move, Navarrete hopes he can face The Ring bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue, who was scheduled to face John Riel Casimero this Saturday in Las Vegas before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the boxing calendar.
Navarrete holds out hope a fight can be made later this year or in early 2021 against Inoue, should the popular fighter from Japan moves up to junior featherweight.
“If we get through this (pandemic) quickly, and there is interest from the Japanese fighter, I believe it will be easier to make a fight with him than with any other fighter at 122. But there is no interest from their part. He really did what he wanted at 118 (pounds) and then he sent out a release saying that he was going to move up to 122, my division. When he did it, I saw the possibility of fighting him because he signed with Top Rank, but after that, he said he was going to face Casimero. I don’t know if (a fight between them) will happen, but if it happens, it will have to be right after we get through the pandemic. It would have to happen right away because the truth is that I’m seriously thinking of moving up to 126, and the only thing that could keep me at 122 would be a big fight against Inoue or a possible unification against one of the champions. That is the reality of why I would stay around at 122. If it’s not that way, I will move up to 126.”
Editor’s Note: Inoue stated that he would attempt to unify the entire 118-pound division before targeting 122 pounds.