As Emanuel Navarrete battered away at a game, dangerous Liam Wilson last Friday to score a stoppage a belt in his third weight class, fans weren’t just treated to one of the best fights so far in 2023.

Fans were treated to the first leg of a two-week swing through the division set to remake half its title picture.

A lot has changed at 130 pounds in the last year. When 2022 got underway, Shakur Stevenson was the division’s newest titlist, Oscar Valdez was still clouded by the controversy of a failed drug test, and there remained two WBA titlists.

Through the year, fans saw Hector Garcia upset Chris Colbert for the secondary WBA belt and then win the full one from Roger Gutierrez; Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov picked up a vacant IBF belt after Joe Cordina was forced to give up the belt to injury; and Shakur Stevenson unified the WBC and WBO belt with a win over Valdez before losing both straps on the scale.

2023 is here and fully underway. Garcia failed in an attempt to move to lightweight, falling short in a spirited effort versus Gervonta Davis. Garcia will be back. Rakhimov will square off with Cordina in April in a fight worth getting excited about. 

And Stevenson’s move to lightweight after his win over Robson Conceicao meant he wasn’t coming back for the two belts he never got to defend together. The WBO was filled by Navarrete. Saturday (Showtime, 9 PM EST), the WBC strap will get resolved.

Just like last week, we have a two-division titlist from Mexico looking to make it three. On paper, this fight looks more competitive than Navarrete-Wilson did going in. ‘On paper’ often doesn’t matter, as was the case when Wilson’s hook put Navarrete on the deck and set the fireworks in motion.

But we can always hope the better looking fight ends up exceeding expectations too.

In one corner, 32-year old Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KO) will make a rapid transition from featherweight to Jr. lightweight. Vargas spent most of his career at Jr. featherweight, making five title defenses. At 5’10, he was tall for the class and long-limbed. Injuries cost him all of 2020 and most of 2021 before a two-fight stint at 126 pounds where Vargas came off the floor to wrangle the WBC belt from Mark Magsayo. Vargas is now entering a class where size will start to catch up with him.    

On the other side of the ring, 29-year old O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KO) will be waiting. Foster has been looking for a title shot and has a chance to fulfill his dreams while matching up with Vargas physically in a way few Vargas foes have. Foster is a little shorter but his arms are longer than Vargas’s and he appears to have the edge in speed. Foster has won nine straight but none have the experience or schooling of the Nacho Beristain student coming up. 

Foster won’t have to worry about Beristain being in the corner this weekend, but that’s a hell of a foundation for Vargas to build on.

Will the winner this weekend prove to be part of a solid new foundation for the division?

Junior lightweight doesn’t appear to be in the midst of the sort of talent run it had in the 2000s when names like Mayweather, Corrales, Casamayor, Freitas, Pacquiao, Marquez, Morales, and Barrera had runs. It might take a generation or two to see that again and that’s okay. Yesterday is staying where it was.

What the arrival of Navarrete and Vargas does is deepen the pool of a division that needs it, refreshing a field in need of some new blood. If Foster can win this weekend, it only further refreshes the class, stamping a new face against a highly credible opponent and ending the fight with two new factors to consider in the class. 

Whether any of this results in various titlists squaring off with each other through the rest of the year remains to be seen. We are at least likely to see Navarrete-Valdez and the winner this weekend will do so fighting under the same network umbrella Garcia has battled under in his last three contests. 

New doors and options are better than empty spaces to be filled. As far as titles go, only one chair remains open. 

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at