Emanuel Navarrete insists there is still work to be done at featherweight before chasing other opportunities.
The scale initially indicated otherwise, as the two-division titlist from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico was forced to strip down to his birthday suit and hold his breath to hit the mark for his third defense of the WBO featherweight. Navarrete weighed 125.8 pounds on his second attempt after coming in slightly over the limit on the first try for his clash with countryman Eduardo Baez, who weighed 125.8 on his first trip to the scale on Friday ahead of their ESPN headliner this Saturday from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California.
Navarrete (35-1, 29KOs) fought at this venue in his most recent bout, an entertaining but convincing win over Joet Gonzalez last October.
The upcoming clash with Baez will mark the 27-year-old’s longest layoff since 2014, though his featherweight reign has come at a more deliberate pace than his WBO junior featherweight title run. Navarrete was among the sport’s most active fighters during his 122-pound title stay, cramming five title defenses into a nine-month span and six overall title fights from December 2018 through February 2020.
On the other side of the pandemic came a new chapter. Navarrete took a June 2020 stay-busy fight at featherweight before deciding to remain at the weight, giving up his title soon thereafter. A twelve-round win over Ruben Villa saw the rising star claim the vacant WBO featherweight title which is at stake on Saturday for the third time.
Mexicali's Baez (21-2-2, 7KOs) enters his first career title fight having won ten of his last eleven starts.
The 27-year-old contender is coming off a ten-round win over countryman Jose Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11KOs) on March 26, bouncing back from a hard-fought loss to top junior featherweight contender Ra’eese Aleem last November 27 in Las Vegas. Baez’s lone other defeat came more than five years ago, dropping a six-round decision to current top contender Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara in April 2017 when both were young prospects.
Locally based Giovani Santillan was part of the undercard that housed Navarrete’s previous title defense in this venue. The unbeaten contender from San Diego once again fights in supporting capacity to the featherweight titlist, this time as the televised co-feature as he faces Durango, Mexico’s Julio Luna in a dangerous ten-round contest between unbeaten contenders.
Santillan (29-0, 16KOs) checked in at 147.4 pounds for his third straight fight in his home region. The 30-year-old southpaw is coming off a seventh-round knockout of Jeovanis Barraza on April 9 in Costa Mesa, six months after outpointing Angel Ruiz in this arena last October.
Luna (19-0-2, 10KOs)—who is promoted by Miura Boxing—also weighed 147.4 pounds for his U.S. debut and first career fight outside of Mexico.
Opening the ESPN tripleheader, Nico Ali Walsh aims to improve on his one win to go the distance, as he faces Reyes Sanchez in a rematch. Ali Walsh (5-0, 4KOs)—who won their December 11 clash via four-round majority decision—was 157.8 pounds for the bout, Topeka’s Sanchez (7-2, 3KOs) weighed 157.2 pounds for their four-round middleweight contest.
Below are the weights for the ESPN+ preliminary undercard, which begins at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.
Austin Brooks (7-0, 2KOs), La Mesa, California, 129.4 pounds vs. Oliver Galicia (5-0-1, 3KOs), Los Angeles, 128.6 pounds—6 rounds junior lightweight
Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13KOs), Monterrey, Mexico, 142.2 pounds vs. Omar Aguilar (24-0, 23KOs), Ensenada, Mexico, 142 pounds—8 rounds, junior welterweight
Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11KOs), Sacramento, 131.6 pounds vs. Alejandro Guerrero (12-2, 9KOs), Irving, Texas, 131.8 pounds—8 rounds, junior lightweight
Miguel Contreras (11-1-1, 6KOs), Bakersfield, California, 135.4 pounds vs. Josec Ruiz (23-6-3, 16KOs), Miami via Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 135.4 pounds—8 rounds, lightweight
Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2, 14KOs), Mexicali, 127 pounds vs. Yeison Vargas (20-10, 15KOs), Orlando, Florida via Cartagena, Colombia, 125.6 pounds—8 rounds, featherweight
Antonio Mireles (4-0, 4 KOs), Des Moines, Iowa, 266 pounds vs. Kaleel Carter (2-1, 2KOs), Bellflower, California, 237 pounds—4 rounds, heavyweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox