Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz spent most of the second half of 2020 awaiting word on a title eliminator which never materialized.
The universe has instead rewarded him with a straightaway title shot.
The featherweight contender has accepted an opportunity to next challenge two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete, sources from both camps have confirmed to BoxingScene.com. The bout will headline an April 24 card to air live on an ESPN platform from a location to be determined.
ESPN Deportes’ Salvador ‘Chava’ Rodriguez was the first to report the news of terms being reached for what figures to be a can’t-miss action fight.
Navarrete (33-1, 28KOs) will attempt the first defense of the featherweight title he acquired in a 12-round decision over unbeaten Ruben Villa last October at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The 26-year old from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico collected his second major title with the win, having previously held the WBO junior featherweight title. Five successful defenses came of an active 122-pound reign which began with his unanimous decision win over unbeaten Isaac Dogboe in December 2018.
From there came one of the most active title fight runs in recent times, cramming five successful defenses in a span of nine months.
The rapid stretch for Navarrete with a 12th round stoppage of Dogboe in their May 2019 rematch. Navarrete scored stoppage wins in all five title defenses, the last of which came in halting Jeo Santisima in the 11th round of their title fight clash last February at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The win came in supporting capacity to a joint ESPN/Fox Sports Pay-Per-View venture headlined by Tyson Fury’s 7th round knockout of Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight championship rematch.
Four months later, Navarrete agreed to relinquish his 122-pound title in opting to move up in weight. A 6th round stoppage of Uriel Lopez last June officially ignited his featherweight campaign, with his title win coming just four months later.
Diaz (26-2, 16KOs) has won three of his last four starts since dropping down from junior lightweight following a failed title bid versus Masayuki Ito in July 2018. The lone loss among his current featherweight stretch came at the capable hands of unbeaten Shakur Stevenson, whom outpointed the Puerto Rican contender over 10 rounds in their April 2019 clash as part of an ESPN Pay-Per-View event from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Back-to-back points wins have since followed, including a 10-round decision over Jason Sanchez last June at MGM Grand Conference Center. The bout came as part of the first wave of closed-doors shows presented by Top Rank and ESPN since the pandemic, with hopes of returning in a more significant fight later in the year.
Diaz—a 26-year old contender from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico—was even willing to drop down to junior featherweight, where he was in line for a WBC title eliminator versus unbeaten contender Carlos Castro. The bout was tentatively targeted for a late October slot, only for the pairing to never materialize.
A better opportunity ultimately came along, one which allows Diaz to remain at featherweight and for a second shot to win a major title. A victory will allow him to bring home a title to Puerto Rico, with the island only boasting two active major titlists—WBO strawweight champ Wilfrido ‘Bimbito’ Mendez and seven-division and reigning WBC/WBO featherweight titlist Amanda Serrano.
Navarrete will enter his eighth career title fight, all coming in a 32-month span which also includes a non-title fight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox