Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Emanuel Navarrete says lack of time off will only help vs. Robson Conceicao

Emanuel Navarrete successfully defended his WBO junior lightweight title for the first time against Oscar Valdez. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

Emanuel Navarrete will head into the second defense of his WBO junior lightweight title only three months after a career-best win over Oscar Valdez back in August.

Many fighters would have taken the rest of the year off and basked in the glory, but when Navarrete was offered the opportunity to fight again, he curtailed his rest period after just two weeks and returned to training camp. On Thursday, he will face Robson Conceicao at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“I feel like I do better when my time off is short. I look better, I feel better,” Navarrete (38-1, 31 knockouts) told The Ring. “It’s also a good opportunity against Robson Conceicao. It’s a good fight, it’s important, and I feel good. That’s why I decided to take on this challenge, and I hope it goes well for me.”

Navarrete, who has previously won WBO titles at 122 and 126 pounds, acknowledges that his Brazilian opponent has the style to potentially make it a very awkward evening for him.

“We know who he is, and it would be bad to underestimate him. He’s dangerous, has an Olympic style and can be difficult for anyone,” said Navarrete, who is rated No. 1 at 130 pounds by The Ring. “He’s got a lot of talent and experience in the ring. Obviously we know the danger it represents to face him. 

“It’s a complicated fight, but we’re very prepared and conscious of what we’re going to do November 16 in Las Vegas, and we’re going to try to do our best.”

Navarrete (right) made his final defense of the WBO featherweight title against Eduardo Baez in August 2022, then rose to junior lightweight to challenge Liam Wilson. (Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

The fight will be in chief support of the Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos main event and is part of the build-up to the Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 18.

“I do think it’s good; you’re going to see a lot of Mexican people there,” said Navarrete, who won his current belt with a ninth-round stoppage of Liam Wilson. “You’re also going to see Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, who’s a racer from Mexico; that’s going to generate a lot of interest. There’s going to be Mexican people there to see him and possibly support me as well.”

The visibility will help his profile, but it’s what he does in the ring that has already made Navarrete stand out. Beating Valdez, a well-known Olympian who had won world titles at 126 and 130, was huge, and he feels he owes much of that to his extensive preparation.

“The people did respond to me very well on social media, there’s [excitement] there,” he said. “I feel good with my people, the people who write to me. It’s very difficult, but I stayed tuned and I’m very happy with what has happened.

“You saw the fruits of our labor. We were in very good condition. It was the best preparation and best condition, until now. We were very happy to overcome this test against Valdez. We’re happy because we know how to get to that level, to that kind of performance, that kind of condition. A lot of fighters don’t find that, but we found it and now we just have to get better and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Navarrete (right) in action against Oscar Valdez. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

His time off was brief but well-spent.

“I try not to think about boxing and be with my family,” he said. “My kids are too young. I do try to be with them, my cousins, my uncles — my family is very big, so I have cousins and nephews and we try to do reunions with them.

“I might have a few cups — I like to enjoy the traditions with my family that are in my town. I like being there; there’s food, there’s family. I try to clear my mind. Sure, a few drinks, but it’s not like there’s one thing I do in particular to celebrate.”

One has to wonder if placing Navarrete on the undercard of such a high-profile lightweight fight as Stevenson-De Los Santos was part of a bigger plan for Navarrete. The Mexican is focused on the task at hand but admits another weight class is something that interests him — just not yet.

“I don’t know what the intentions are of the promoter, but they gave me the opportunity to appear once more for the year, and I’m going to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said. “The fourth division could happen a bit after, but I’m working hard right now on this fight against Robson and eventually trying to unify, which is what I wanted to do throughout my entire career. Hopefully I can unify in this division. If not, I’m going to have to defend a bit more and then go for that fourth division.” 

Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs), The Ring’s No. 7-rated junior lightweight, represented his country at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics before winning gold at the 2016 Rio Games. The 35-year-old has worked his way through the ranks as a professional and had his own encounter with Valdez back in September 2021. Conceicao gave the then-WBC titlist fits before losing a contentious 12-round unanimous decision, but he rebounded strongly, taking Xavier Martinez’s unbeaten record by a lopsided 10-round decision. He then met Stevenson, who’d just added Valdez’s title to his collection, and was soundly outpointed. In his most recent outing, he faced Nicolas Polanco, but the fight was ruled a no-contest after a clash of heads in the second round.

Navarrete could be in for a complicated fight, but this writer’s feeling is that he’ll come on strong and do the better work to grind out a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision.

Navarrete-Conceicao will be a co-feature to Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos on ESPN+ at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].