Joet Gonzalez knows what he signed up for, even if he still doesn’t fully know what to expect on fight night.
A daunting task awaits the featherweight contender who enters his second challenge of the WBO featherweight title. The belt’s current claimant is Emanuel Navarrete, the red-hot two-division titlist from Mexico whose second defense comes versus Gonzalez this Friday on ESPN+ from Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Gonzalez has faced nearly every style between pro, amateur and a brief stint in the World Series of Boxing. Admittedly, none leave him prepared for Navarrete’s awkwardness and ability to throw power punches from long range and odd angles.
“Not at all,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com, laughing at the thought of any past opponents who remotely resemble Navarrete’s style. “Navarrete is definitely unique and fights his own way. He throws punches from all angles.
“To prepare for him, you have to expect the unexpected. You just have to be ready from round one through round twelve.”
Gonzalez (24-1, 14KOs) came up well short in his previous title bid, a twelve-round decision defeat to Shakur Stevenson (16-0, 8KOs) in October 2019. Just one fight has followed, a ten-round, unanimous decision win in a strong showing versus Miguel Marriaga last September. The fight came four weeks prior to Navarrete winning his second divisional title, moving up from junior featherweight to claim the WBO featherweight belt in a twelve-round decision win over then-unbeaten Ruben Villa last October in Las Vegas.
Navarrete (34-1, 29KOs) was at his best in his first title defense, dominating Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz en route to a 12th round stoppage this past April on the road in Kissimmee, Florida. It marked the third fight for Navarrete at featherweight, looking very comfortable in the ring and at the weight.
Gonzalez knows it’s tough to predict where the punches will come from. Being prepared for anything against the fighter he considers to be the best featherweight in the world, though, is the best head start he can give himself this weekend.
“He’s better at this weight,” believes Gonzalez, who has campaigned at featherweight since 2016. “He was a big 122 and I think he’s still big for 126. But at this weight, he looks even stronger. He’s more solid, he’s not struggling to make the weight like he was at 122.
“I think for this fight we’re going to see the best Navarrete that the public has ever seen. That’s what I want, I want to beat him at his best.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox