Ruben Villa is not the southpaw Emanuel Navarrete would’ve preferred to fight Friday night.
The former WBO junior featherweight champion hoped Jessie Magdaleno would’ve accepted the bout the WBO ordered for its vacant featherweight title. Magdaleno, also an ex-WBO 122-pound champ, instead turned down a fight versus Navarrete because he wasn’t satisfied with promoter Top Rank’s financial offer.
Villa, who had been ranked two spots ahead of Magdaleno, happily accepted the title shot he should’ve been afforded before the WBO ordered Navarrete-Magdaleno. The WBO noted that the Navarrete-Magdaleno winner would’ve had to fight Villa next when it initially ordered that bout.
“I really don’t really have much to say about what happened with Magdaleno,” Navarrete told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I understood the situation he was in and why he did it. So, I respect that. The only thing that bothered me a little bit about us not fighting is that I would really love to face him.”
Top Rank, Magdaleno’s primary promoter and Navarrete’s co-promoter, was the only bidder at the purse bid the WBO conducted for their fight. In accordance with WBO rules, Magdaleno would’ve been paid $100,000 from his side’s share of the 60-40 split of a $250,000 bid.
The Las Vegas native believes the Navarrete fight is worth more than that and thus turned down an opportunity to become a world champion in a second weight class.
Navarette (32-1, 28 KOs), of San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, and Villa (18-0, 5 KOs), of Salinas, California, will meet in a main event ESPN will televise from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The WBO installed Navarrete as its number one contender in the featherweight division because its rules state that if a reigning champion relinquishes his title to jump up in weight, he automatically becomes the number one contender in the higher weight class. Villa had been the WBO’s number two contender, but he was moved down to number three once Navarrete entered the WBO’s featherweight ratings and Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KOs) was elevated from fourth to second.
The WBO moved Magdaleno from second to third and Villa from third to second once Magdaleno turned down the fight versus Navarrete over the summer. Navarrete, 25, and Villa, 23, will fight for the title Shakur Stevenson gave up to remain in the junior lightweight division.
“I really don’t underestimate Villa, or what he has accomplished,” Navarrete said. “But in terms of fighting big names, I would’ve preferred fighting someone like Jessie because of the career he has developed. I feel like I need one of those big names on my record.”
Navarrete-Villa is one of two bouts ESPN is scheduled to air Friday night, starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly (8-0, 4 KOs) and Argentina’s Gonzalo Coria (16-3, 6 KOs) will open ESPN’s doubleheader in a 10-round middleweight match.
The remainder of the Navarrete-Villa undercard will be streamed on ESPN+, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.