Emanuel Navarrete will begin his second title reign in hostile territory.
The two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titlist will hit the road for his first defense, as he faces Puerto Rico’s Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz. Their bout will take place April 24 on an ESPN platform live from Kissimmee, Florida. The venue is still being finalized although all indications point to it taking place at Silver Spurs Arena at Osceola Heritage Park, multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com.
A heavy Boricua theme will run through the event, which will take place in a greater Orlando metro region which is second only to New York City among the largest population of Puerto Ricans in mainland United States.
Two undercard bouts have been revealed to BoxingScene.com through sources: unbeaten Nuyorican super middleweight knockout artist Edgar Berlanga (16-0, 16KOs) versus Demond Nicholson (23-3-1, 20KOs) [the bout first reported by The Athletic]; and a terrific prospect-level clash between Joseph Adorno (14-0-1, 12KOs), a Puerto Rican lightweight from Allentown, Pennsylvania and Jamaine Ortiz (14-0, 12KOs), an unbeaten DominiRican from Worcester, Massachusetts.
Henry ‘Moncho’ Lebron (13-0, 9KOs) and Orlando ‘Zurdo de Oro’ Gonzalez (16-0, 10KOs)—unbeaten cousins from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico who have developed a following in Central Florida—are both rumored to appear on the undercard as well. Opponents have yet to be assigned or even suggested for the pair of Top Rank-promoted prospects.
Navarrete (33-1, 28KOs) attempts the first defense of his featherweight reign. The streaking 26-year old from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico moved up to the 126-pound division following an active junior featherweight reign, where he claimed six title fight wins in a span of just 14 months.
The reign was abandoned last summer, with Navarrete accepting a non-title fight last June to test the featherweight waters before moving forward with a shot at the vacant WBO title. Navarrete outpointed previously unbeaten Ruben Villa in their ESPN-televised headliner last October from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The forthcoming clash with Diaz (26-2, 16KOs) will mark the first for Navarrete on the East Coast since his WBO junior featherweight title-winning effort over then-unbeaten Isaac Dogboe in Dec. 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Navarrete has won 28 straight fights since suffering a four-round loss in the 6th fight of his pro career back in 2012.
Diaz—a 26-year old contender from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico—has won his last two starts after suffering his lone two career defeats in a span of three fights. The first loss came in his previous tile bid, a 12-round loss to Masayuki Ito in their July 2019 WBO junior lightweight title fight at the Kissimmee Civic Center, roughly 10 minutes where the April 24 show will take place.
The setback prompted a move down to the featherweight division, where Diaz has won three of his last four. The lone defeat over that stretch came in April 2019, dropping a 10-round decision to Shakur Stevenson who would win the WBO featherweight title in his next fight later that year.
In his most recent start, Diaz scored a 10-round unanimous decision win over former title challenger Jason Sanchez last June in Las Vegas. The bout came as part of the first wave of closed-doors shows presented by Top Rank and ESPN from the MGM Bubble since the pandemic, with hopes of returning in a more significant fight later in the year. Diaz planned to drop down even further in weight as he accepted a WBC title eliminator versus unbeaten contender Carlos Castro. The bout was suggested to take place last October but never saw the light of day.
Instead, Diaz will remain put at featherweight and will once again enjoy a regional advantage for his second career title fight.
Also of note to Boricua culture in the region is the wildly popular annual Día Nacional de la Zalsa festival taking place one day later, Sunday April 25 at Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando. A title win by Diaz will provide additional cause for celebration, joining WBO strawweight title claimant Wilfredo ‘Bimbito’ Mendez and record-setting seven division and reigning WBC/WBO featherweight champ Amanda Serrano as Puerto Rico’s lone active titlists.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox