Advertisement: IBO Boxing

Critical Questions at Featherweight


This Friday (ESPN+, 7:30 PM EST), 25-year old former WBO 122 lb. titlist Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KO) will try to add a belt in a second weight class when he faces undefeated 23-year old Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KO). Navarrete is favored to win and, if he does, adds new depth to a weight class that seems a bit between things.

A week ago in this space, the quality and depth of matchmaking happening all over the scale was celebrated. Divisions like heavyweight, cruiserweight, Jr. middleweight, bantamweight and others were pointed to as high points for boxing.

Featherweight isn’t a low point but it’s not on fire either.

The recent losses of Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton and Shakur Stevenson, along with the all but official end of Leo Santa Cruz’s run at featherweight despite still holding a WBA belt in the class, all to the Jr. lightweight class, leave both void and opportunity.

With a loaded Jr. featherweight class sitting just four pounds south, it’s only a matter of time before featherweight is again one of boxing’s hottest weight classes. In the meantime, there are still some interesting possibilities and questions to ponder. Let’s start with the question this weekend will raise.

Is Navarrete in for a spell or a stop?

Navarrete showed his chops in two wins over Isaac Dogboe at Jr. featherweight but he’s held serve since against fringe opposition. His frame was big one class down and the Mexican battler will still look like a man with room to grow this Friday. Promoted by Top Rank, how long would a victorious Navarrete be able to ignore the call of bigger names and fights under his promotional tent at Jr. lightweight? Valdez will soon challenge Berchelt and Jamel Herring is looking at Frampton in January. There aren’t a lot immediate options for Navarrete at featherweight as potentially lucrative as what will be there just four pounds up.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

Will we see Josh Warrington-Can Xu?

Promoter Eddie Hearn continues to hint at a showdown between IBF titlist Josh Warrington (30-0, 7 KO) and WBA sub-titlist Can Xu (18-2, 3 KO). They could call such a showdown “The Wasp’s Nest” because, while neither man is likely to get the other out of there, the clash would likely feature a ceaseless string of stings. Would it be a genuine unification fight by the time it happened? Santa Cruz hasn’t fought at featherweight since February 2019 and is headed for a showdown with Gervonta Davis at Jr. lightweight later this month. Assuming the WBA doesn’t insist on a new ‘sooper’ champ, unification is a real possibility.

A Warrington unification with Stevenson didn’t come to fruition but the discussions happened and leave the chance that a Warrington-Xu winner could be a foe for Navarrete down the road. They could also be a foe for one of the sport’s great enigmas.

gary-russell (2)_4

Can Gary Russell cap his run?

Sometimes, it’s okay to trust one’s eyes. When he’s in the ring, WBC titlist Gary Russell Jr. (31-1, 18 KO) looks like the most talented featherweight in the world. Unbeaten since a loss to Vasyl Lomachenko, Russell is 32. His inactivity, with only one fight a year in six straight turns of the calendar, has been fodder for social media but wins over Jhonny Gonzalez, Joseph Diaz, and Tugstsogt Nyambayar suggest how much more there could be. Barring a move up the scale, could a unified titlist being in the division be something that snared his interest? A fight with PBC stablemate Santa Cruz never came together. The division’s longest reigning beltholder needs the sort of win that can stamp his time in the division. There’s still time to find it.

With seventeen weight classes, there will always be spots that sit in lulls occasionally. It doesn’t mean a nudge here or there couldn’t get things moving in a better direction in short order. Featherweight could use a nudge. We’ll see soon whether Navarrete-Villa is the start of one.         

Cliff’s Notes…

Anyone reading who has people around them wondering what they love about boxing has a new adrenaline shot available to make a new fan. Last weekend’s fight of the year-level classic between Jose Zepeda and Ivan Baranchyk will have replay value for years to come. Eight (unofficially nine) knockdowns in five rounds with a conclusive finish doesn’t happen everyday...Finally trying The Boys on Prime. Like Preacher, toning down the source material makes for better TV. Garth Ennis’ imagination is one twisted field...Deontay Wilder letting go of Mark Breland doesn’t matter as much as trying to find a way to win rounds without scoring knockdowns. Without a wrinkle, he’s still counting on a thunderbolt to bail out a technical mismatch with Tyson Fury...Donnie Nietes coming back is interesting. At his age, off a long layoff, can he find a career capper or did his window for big nights close?           
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at

User Comments and Feedback
Comment by Ajvar on 10-09-2020

[QUOTE]The recent losses of Oscar Valdez, Carl Frampton and [B]Shakur Stevenson,[/B] [/QUOTE] What a fuk is he writing about??? I wish Shakur lost but officially he NEVER did.

Comment by JRB123 on 10-08-2020

Russell is moving up. There's no point for him waiting on these other guys anymore. He will fight Fortuna at lightweight

Comment by tokon on 10-08-2020

I don't see Navarette beating Russell, if that fight could even be made.

Comment by sammybee on 10-08-2020

If Navarette is able to defeat Villa, l expect him to unify the division.

Top Headlines
Jaime Munguia Fights Through Fire, Stops Johnson in Six Due To Severe Cut Dave Allen Gutted Over Fight Falling Out, To Return in Coming Months Jaime Munguia vs. Tureano Johnson - LIVE BoxingScene Scorecard Rashidi Ellis Stays Unbeaten, Decisions Alexis Rocha Elwin Soto Boxes Past Carlos Buitrago To Retain Title Devin Haney: I Have a Goal To Be The First Billionaire Boxer! Marlen Esparza Decisions Sulem Urbina Over Eight Rashid Kodzoev Takes Out Tamas Lodi in Five Rounds in Minsk Naoya Inoue, Jason Moloney - Set For Las Vegas Showdown Barrios vs. Karl, Magdaleno vs. Cruz - Weights Ewa Brodnicka Misses Weight, Title Only At Stake For Mikaela Mayer Regis Prograis, Juan Heraldez - Set For Battle Gervonta Davis, Leo Santa Cruz - Ready For War in Texas Inoue-Moloney ESPN+ Weigh-In Report From Las Vegas Weights: Murat Gassiev 230.6-Pounds, Nuri Seferi 225.1 Ryan Garcia vs. Luke Campbell - Undercard Information Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz Weigh-In Results From San Antonio LIVE STREAM: Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz - Weigh-In Gervonta Davis: My Arms Are Open If Floyd Wants To Work Corner Saturday Night Lee Selby, George Kambosos - Ready For Eliminator Savannah Marshall, Hannah Rankin - Set For Title Clash Michael Conlan Suffers ATFL Tear, Out For 8-12 Weeks's Television Pick of The Week - October 30 Usyk, Chisora - Face To Face For Halloween War Munguia: They Offered Us This Fight, We Said Yes Without Even Discussing It Usyk-Chisora, Kambosos-Selby Weigh-In Report From London Santa Cruz: I Wanted Davis Fight Because People Said I Was Scared, Always Getting Tune-Ups Wojcicki-Volny Title Eliminator Postponed Due To Mandatory Shutdown In Germany Devin Haney: I Agree With Floyd Mayweather - There Are Too Many Belts In Boxing Miguel Vazquez Reflects on Controversial Loss, Aims For World Title Run Lee Selby Rejects Kambosos' Version of What Happened in Their Sparring Sulem Urbina: I've Wanted To Fight Marlen Esparza For a Long Time Hunter: I Don't Think Fury Will Pick Me, I Pose Bigger Threat Than Wilder Will Fighting Leo Santa Cruz At 130 Pounds Be Worth The Weight For Gervonta Davis? Savannah Marshall, Hannah Rankin Trade Words, Promise a War Raeese Aleem Continues To Train, Hopes For Title Shot Next Mayweather: If Tank Gets Past Leo, 1 More Fight, Then Hopefully Teofimo Fight Can Be Made Toka Kahn-Clary Blasts Out Jonathan Perez in Two Rounds Roy Jones: I Wasn't Like Mayweather, I Went And Got Every Belt Possible Gervonta Davis-Leo Santa Cruz - Judges, Referee Revealed For Fight
Latest Forum Threads