Joet Gonzalez’s goal Saturday night is to earn a rematch with Emanuel Navarrete.
To secure what would be his third shot at the WBO featherweight title in as many years, Gonzalez must overcome an opponent Navarrete has already beaten twice in a 12-round main event ESPN+ will stream from Grand Casino Hinckley in Hinckley, Minnesota. The winner of the WBO 126-pound elimination match between Gonzalez (25-2, 15 KOs) and Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe (23-2, 15 KOs) will become the mandatory challenger for Navarrete’s title, yet neither Gonzalez nor Dogboe is convinced that Navarrete will remain in the 126-pound division long enough to fight Gonzalez a second time or Dogboe on a third occasion.
“I can only hope that, you know, he stays at 126,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “I would really like that fight again. You know, me, personally, I don’t think he wants it. I don’t think he’s scared, but I just don’t think he’s willing to go through that again, that type of fight. But, you know, I can only hope that he stays at 126. If everything goes well this Saturday, I’ll be the mandatory again for the WBO and I’m hoping to get another shot at him.”
Gonzalez, of Glendora, California, isn’t certain Navarrete will want to fight him again because their “Fight of the Year” candidate was such a grueling slugfest. The courageous Gonzalez suffered a jagged gash above his right eye early in the third round of his fight versus Navarrete and grotesque swelling beneath his right eye last October 15 at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, but he managed to make their 12-round contest competitive.
Navarrete admitted Gonzalez hurt him more than once, yet he won 116-112 on the scorecards of judges Max De Luca and Patricia Morse Jarman. Judge Pat Russell scored 10 of the 12 rounds for Navarrete, who won 118-110 on his card.
“It was a tough fight, like I expected,” Gonzalez said, “with a fighter that comes, throws punches, an awkward fighter that hits you with shots that you don’t usually see coming. With his awkwardness, you know, he looks off balance, but he generates a lot of power. He generates certain shots that you don’t usually see people get off. You know, it was a tough fight. I got cut early in the third round, basically like 15 or 20 seconds into the third round. I think the cut played a big factor on the scorecards throughout the fight.
“But I answered back the following round, in the fourth. I buckled him with a right hand. He knew he was in a fight, regardless of my face. I was never hurt in the fight. I was cut here and there, but if I was hurt I wouldn’t have fought the way that I fought. I wouldn’t have come forward, pressed forward. I was in the fight the whole time, but it just wasn’t my night.”
The 28-year-old Gonzalez realizes he didn’t do enough to dethrone Navarrete. He does, however, believe he deserved better on the scorecards.
“I think the cut made [the fight] look worse than it was,” Gonzalez said. “People were saying, ‘Oh, look at his eye. The corner should stop it.’ But the referee [Ray Corona] kept coming to check up on me and I was good. I was responding good. I was physically good. I was in it. You know, I already had the cut on my eye and he would hit me with a shot, but I would answer back.
“I was physically responding. So, I was in the fight mentally, and that’s why the fight kept going. You saw at the end of the fight, he was huffing and puffing on his stool, and my brother picked me up. So, I was good. It just looked worse than what it was.”
Mexico’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) is scheduled to make the third defense of his WBO featherweight championship August 20 against countryman Eduardo Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs) at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.