By Jake Donovan
There isn’t a super bantamweight in the world today whom Emanuel Navarrete believes he can’t beat.
The only question is how many he can get to before his body dictates a move up the scale.
“If I’m being honest, I probably only have two or three fights left at 122 after this one,” Navarrete (27-1, 23KOs) confessed to BoxingScene.com ahead of his second title defense, which comes this Saturday (ESPN, 10:00pm ET) versus unbeaten Francisco de Vaca (20-0, 6KOs). “After this fight, I really want to face the other champions and unify.”
Navarrete stormed into the title picture with a perceived upset win over previously unbeaten titlist Isaac Dogboe last December in New York City. Dogboe entered the fight as the class of the division and one win away from closing out a Fighter of the Year-level campaign before running into a taller and stronger challenger who’s proven to have his number.
Their rematch five months later not only proved the first win wasn’t a fluke but also presenting the case that Navarrete is perhaps the best super bantamweight on the planet. A one-sided 12thround stoppage this past May certainly spoke volumes, although unified titlist Daniel Roman and unbeaten title claimant Rey Vargas certainly have their say in the matter.
The best way to end any such argument, of course, is to get all of them together to prove in the ring who is the best. Roman took the first step, outpointing TJ Doheny in their furiously-paced 12-round title unification thriller this past April. Vargas followed suit by outpointing former bantamweight titlist Tomoki Kameda in their title consolidation bout this past July.
With a win on Saturday, the streaking 24-year old titlist—whose won 22 straight since his lone career loss—plans to seek out his divisional peers sooner rather than later.
“I definitely want those guys next,” insists Navarrete, not offering a preference on whom he faces first other than noting a ticking clock. “I’m not going to waste time chasing anyone, though. If we get the sense those fights aren’t happening, then I will move up to featherweight and go for the champions there.
“I want to clean out the super bantamweight division before I move up, I don’t want to leave anything (unresolved). But I won’t be at this weight much longer, so if (Roman and Vargas) aren’t ready, then I will focus on becoming a two-division world champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox