Bob Arum expects Emanuel Navarrete to remain at featherweight after Saturday night.
Mexico’s Navarrete has not given up his WBO junior featherweight title, but his promoter anticipates him vacating that championship because it has become increasingly difficult for Navarrete to make the 122-pound limit. The 25-year-old Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) is heavily favored to beat Mexican journeymen Uriel Lopez (13-13-1, 6 KOs) in the main event of a five-fight show ESPN will televise live from Mexico City on Saturday night.
With a limited budget for an event ESPN will air from TV Azteca studios, Navarrete has taken a tune-up fight against an overmatched opponent just to stay busy. Arum envisions Navarrete’s second featherweight bout this year to be much more meaningful, perhaps a fight for the WBO featherweight title.
“I think that if Shakur decides to campaign as a 130-pounder,” Arum told BoxingScene.com, “that Navarrete and somebody else, maybe Magdaleno, could fight for the vacant 126-pound title in the WBO. Navarette was having some difficulty making 122, so it would make it easier having him fight at 126.”
Shakur Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs), the WBO featherweight champion, has repeatedly expressed his intention to remain in the junior lightweight division if he can’t secure a featherweight title unification fight with IBF champion Josh Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs). With Warrington seemingly headed for another title unification match against China’s Can Xu (18-2, 3 KOs), Stevenson is expected to give up his 126-pound crown to pursue a 130-pound title shot.
The 22-year-old Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, won his 130-pound debut by sixth-round knockout June 9, when he stopped Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-2-2, 9 KOs) with a body shot at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Navarrete could quickly be afforded a shot at the WBO’s featherweight title because he wouldn’t have lost the WBO junior featherweight title in the ring before deciding to move up.
Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) is the WBO’s number one featherweight contender, but he has yet to be declared the mandatory challenger for Stevenson’s title. Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KOs), a southpaw from Salinas, California, is ranked number two by the WBO in its 126-pound rankings, though, and would want a shot at that sanctioning organization’s featherweight title.
Las Vegas’ Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KOs) is the WBO’s fourth-ranked featherweight contender, one spot below England’s Ryan Walsh (26-2-2, 12 KOs).
Navarrete, meanwhile, is concentrating momentarily on beating the 25-year-old Lopez, who has lost three straight fights. Their apparent mismatch will headline an ESPN broadcast scheduled to start at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.
“He’s a terrific kid,” Arum said of Navarrete. “I’ve had a lot of fun with him. After his fights, I’d always shout at him, ‘Stay in shape. You fight two weeks from now.’ That’s how fighters used to be.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.