Thursday, September 21, 2023  |



Emanuel Navarrete: I’m happy to say I can be an iconic, strong Mexican fighter

Three-division titleholder Emanuel Navarrete. Photo courtesy of Zanfer Boxing.
Fighters Network

Emanuel Navarrete made a claim for the top spot in the junior lightweight division on August 12.

A one-sided decision over former world titleholder Oscar Valdez landed Navarrete (38-1, 31 knockouts) the No. 1 ranking by The Ring at 130 pounds.

The 28-year-old volume-puncher, who resides in San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, made it almost seem easy, outboxing Valdez over 12 rounds before a crowd of 10,246 at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. With the win, Navarrete made the first successful defense of the WBO 130-pound title.

The clash between Navarrete and Valdez was highly anticipated due to their aggressive styles. But turned out to be a showcase for Navarrete, who utilized distance and varied his offense, allowing him to connect to the head and body.

There were solid exchanges between the two, but that was few and far between.

“There was talk of this fight being a war, (and there) was a little bit of that,” Navarrete told a small group of reporters after the fight. “You all saw the fight. How the fight turned out played to my advantage.

“I think our styles complimented one another. Obviously, I had to be brave when I stood in the pocket with him. I tried to predict his movement and I think that was the key in the fight. I identified what he was going to do.”

Oscar Valdez (L) and Emanuel Navarrete (R) exchange punches during their WBO junior lightweight title bout at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

The fight was also billed as another classic amongst action fights between fighters from Mexico. Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, who provided boxing fans with three thrilling fights about 20 years, were brought in by Top Rank to promote the fight during the week of Navarrete-Valdez.

The fight between Navarrete and Valdez did not provide the same action throughout the fight, but Navarrete was glad the win over Valdez put him in a position to be considered one of Mexico’s top fighters today.

This fight was not on the level of those of Barrera and (Julio Cesar) Chavez,” said Navarrete, who is promoted by Top Rank. “I’m happy to be able to say I can be an iconic strong Mexican fighter.”

Despite the clear victory, Navarrete still gave Valdez credit as a worthy fighter. Navarrete and Valdez have won world title belts in multiple weight classes, with Navarrete winning world title belts in three weight classes and Valdez in two.

Valdez fought the second half of the fight with a right eye that was almost closed due to swelling from the number of punches Navarrete landed. Valdez continued fighting, but Navarrete showed superior boxing skills.

Navarrete did admit his right hand was hurt midway through the fight, and he had to be at his best in mostly fighting Valdez with one arm.

“Oscar Valdez is a strong fighter,” said Navarrete. “I can’t say he legitimately hurt me, but I did feel his punches during the fight. I hit Valdez in the head and it caused a bit of inflammation during the fight.

“Valdez showed a lot of heart and desire. Oscar didn’t care about the inflammation of his eye. I think that says a lot about him. I think that says something about his toughness.”

Emanuel Navarrete and Oscar Valdez show respect after weighing in for their anticipated showdown. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank (via @TRBoxing)

Navarrete does have options moving forward. He could make a voluntary defense of the belt or look to unify. The WBO has yet to address whether Navarrete must face No. 1 contender, unbeaten Albert Bell.

There is also the possibility Navarrete could move up, but that would have to be for a significant fight.

Navarrete may or may not feel he gets credit for the victory over Valdez, but he will continue to march to the beat of his own drum.

“I think this fight was a blessing, a benefit for my career. The people probably didn’t want to give me credit for the win over Valdez. That’s fine. Not that we have it, we can relax, celebrate, and move on to what is next.”


Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]


The Canelo-Charlo clash is the cover story to the September 2023 issue of The Ring. Art by Richard T. Slone