Emanuel Navarrete, Oscar Valdez pen latest great chapter in Mexican boxing history
Heading into Saturday’s WBO 130-pound showdown between Emanuel Navarrete and Oscar Valdez there was a belief that the matchup could deliver a potential Fight of The Year and it didn’t disappoint.
The bookmakers and our Fight Picks favored the challenger, Valdez, who entered the fight as The Ring’s No. 1-ranked junior lightweight, to win.
However, after 36 minutes of give and take, in a high-contact war of attrition it was Navarrete who emerged victorious by 12-round unanimous decision thus retaining his title for the first time and enhancing his reputation in front of 10,246 fans at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The awkward, all-action Navarrete (38-1, 31 knockouts) relentlessly ploughed forward, looping shots from different angles and wouldn’t be denied. He’s very unorthodox but highly effective. Navarrete’s impressive punch output gave Valdez (31-2, 23 KOs) fits throughout. The 28-year-old Mexican was like creeping death and although Valdez had his moments, they were less frequent. Anything Valdez did land bounced off the champion’s iron chin with seemingly no affect.
Even when Navarrete injured his right hand in Round 9 and Valdez looked to come on strong, “Vaquero” held firm in a particularly memorable tenth-round firefight. Navarrete’s hammer-hands caused Valdez right eye to swell grotesquely, almost closed. While Navarrete’s face miraculously looked just as it did before the fight started.
When the scorecards were tallied Navarrete was justly awarded the decision, a way off-base 119-109, 118-110 and a more reasonable 116-112. Valdez deserved better than he received on two of the official cards, particularly Lisa Giampa’s tally, which had only one round for him.
“I feel happy to have been part of this card and of this next great chapter of Mexican boxing history,” said Navarrete afterwards. “I am happy and appreciate Oscar for the great fight that we delivered.
“I appreciate what he did in the ring. He is a Mexican warrior. If the people want a rematch, they will demand it.”
“He is a warrior,” said Valdez. “I tried my best. We gave it our best. He is a warrior. He is a true champion. I’m sorry I disappointed everyone. I feel terrible. I wanted to give you all a great fight. I hope you enjoyed the fight. I hope to return strong.”
According to CompuBox, Navarrete outlanded Valdez in nine of the 12 rounds. He threw 1038 punches, landing 216, while Valdez threw a more economical 436, connecting with 140 shots. Valdez accuracy was better at 32.1 percent compared to 20.8 percent.
The fight will go down as one of the best fights of the year and be in the conversation alongside Luis Nery-Azat Hovhannisyan, Jaime Munguia-Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Joe-Cordina-Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov.
It was particularly heart-warming the way both men greeted each afterwards and to see Navarrete give Valdez his cowboy hat, as a mark of respect, only for Valdez to pass back before the victor insisted on his rival keeping it. It perfectly encapsulated the respect the two have for each other.
Navarrete seemingly came from nowhere to rip the WBO junior featherweight title from Isaac Dogboe (UD 12) in May 2019.
Since then, he has been the most active world champion in boxing, fighting 11 world title fights across three-weight classes. Where he holds notable wins over Dogboe (TKO 12) in a rematch, Ruben Villa (UD 12) and Joet Gonzalez (UD 12).
However, this was a step up again, a career best win that solidifies his standing in boxing and gives him a signature win. Navarrete will likely assume the No. 1 position at 130 pounds on the back of this thrilling win.
He may not be as easy on the eye as the likes of Shakur Stevenson but he sure is effective. He makes his perceived shortcomings and deficiencies work for him.
Both men will take some deserved time off. Valdez gave his all and come up short, he should keep his head up and be proud of his effort in an excellent fight. He’s had a successful amateur and professional career and will have to work out where he goes from here. While Navarrete will have to see what the damage is to his hand before returning, probably next year.
A rematch was suggested and both men seem open to it. It would also be interesting to see Navarrete meet one of the other 130-pound titleholders. That appears wishful thinking with each of them fighting for rival promoters on different TV networks. This win likely moves Navarrete into a different tax bracket and allow him to call the shots and headline on ESPN, regardless.
Both Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, who engaged in a three-fight series during the early 2000s, were drafted in to help build the fight and were on hand to watch from ringside, as was another Mexican legend, Julio Cesar Chavez, who worked the Mexican broadcast, and doubtlessly enjoyed what they watched. As would the late, great Salvador Sanchez, who’s passing 41 years ago coincided with the fight Saturday. “Chava” would have been smiling down on both of them after what he witnessed.
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