Emanuel Navarrete feels the time is right to make a statement against Oscar Valdez
Hard-charging WBO junior lightweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete has long wanted to face former two-division titleholder Oscar Valdez. He gets his wish when the two meet on Saturday at the Desert Diamond Arena, Glendale, Arizona.
Navarrete, who became a three-weight world champion last time out by stopping Liam Wilson (TKO 9), welcomes this meeting with his compatriot.
“I’m thrilled about this fight,” Navarrete (37-1, 31 knockouts) told The Ring through Gabe Rivas. “Valdez is a very dangerous fighter. I’ve always seen Oscar as a great fighter – a warrior. He has proven in the ring the quality of a fighter he is and that is exactly the kind of fighter I was looking for.”
The two had originally been scheduled to meet in early February only for Valdez to injure his rib and pull out.
Instead, Navarrete fought Wilson, while Valdez returned snapping a 13-month hiatus after losing to Shakur Stevenson, when he bested Adam Lopez on the undercard of Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko in May.
Although both have circled each other for awhile, they remain cordial.
“There has been a lot of respect between us, I respect him a lot and in the same way he has never disrespected me,” said Navarrete. “From that perspective, it has been very professional from both sides and I think it has more to do with the sport and it’s not personal.”
That’s not to say that Navarrete doesn’t expect a highly volatile match up when they do lock horns and believes it could go down as another exciting chapter in Mexican boxing.
“I think it will be similar to Barrera-Morales,” he said, pulling no punches. “It has a strong possibility that we can create a similar fight to that great demonstration. It’ll be a great demonstration of two great warriors and my focus and preparation has been on that, to come in with my body 100 percent, so we can fight at a really good pace and I think Valdez has the same plan as well.
“Both of us are looking to exchange a lot of punches, with a lot of action and if the fight goes that way, the way we want it to go, yes, why not to think it could be another Barrera-Morales.”
The 28-year-old, who brings pressure, a high work rate and heavy hands, feels better now that he doesn’t have to cut as much weight and expects it to show in this performance but also in future fights as he chases a signature win and settles in the junior lightweight division.
“It’s helped me a lot, I feel less worn out, I feel stronger, I feel it’s been very important,” he explained. “I’ve been really focused on Valdez. I’m focused on giving a good performance in that fight. Beating Valdez would mean and extremely important win for me. It would mean a new chapter for me, a stronger era for my career.
“At 130-pounds it’s a really good division, it’s a place I can consolidate myself and look for more challenges.”
His handler, Alejandro Brito, who also works with former featherweight titlist Mauricio Lara amongst others, also expects a engaging fight and believes this fight can open the gateway to even bigger opportunities.
“It will be a war between two authentic Mexican warriors,” said Brito. “A fight you will enjoy before they even get into the ring.
“For Navarrete, winning this fight will only mean beating one more Mexican, but it will not be the most important fight of his career [there are] many more are coming.”
Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs), The Ring-rated No. 1 junior lightweight, was a standout amateur, appearing at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and winning bronze at the 2009 World Championships. The Mexican star claimed the vacant WBO featherweight title by blasting out Matias Rueda (TKO 2), in July 2016, and made six defenses. Notable triumphs came against Miguel Marriaga (UD 12) and Scott Quigg (UD 12) before the move to 130.
Valdez scored a career-best win when he knocked out Miguel Berchelt (KO 10) for the WBC title. The 32-year-old made one successful defense, struggling to get past Robson Conceicao (UD 12) before losing to Stevenson (UD 12). He knocked off some ring-rust by out-boxing Lopez (UD 10).
It looks a can’t miss all-action fight. Valdez is probably the more versatile fighter and maybe he will elect to box initially but at some point these two will throw down. I’m not sure who that favors. I believe Navarrete is the fresher man but he did look more vulnerable last time out. It appears a 50/50 fight.
Navarrete-Valdez, plus undercard bouts, will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].