GLENDALE, Arizona — Not even in the presence of Mexican boxing royalty was Emanuel Navarrete concerned about living up to exceedingly high expectations.
That’s because he always understood his role.
Hall of Fame legends Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales participated in the fight week promotion and were on site for Navarrete’s valiant twelve-round decision win over Oscar Valdez. Julio Cesar Chavez, the greatest fighter to ever come out of Mexico, was also ringside working the Spanish-speaking feed for Saturday’s memorable ESPN headliner from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The goal for Navarrete was never to measure up to those all-time greats. Job one was to beat his countryman and defend the WBO junior lightweight title.
“I’m not at their level, Terrible, Barrera, Chavez,” Navarrete told BoxingScene.com and other reporters after his latest win. “But I’m proud to say that I have become an iconic Mexican boxer in my own right.”
Navarrete (38-1, 31KOs) won the all-Mexico battle by scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 119-109 to defend the title he claimed in this very venue six months ago. The 28-year-old from San Juan Zitlaltepec was due to face Nogales’ Valdez (31-2, 23KOs) for the vacant title on February 3. However, Valdez—a two-time Olympian for Mexico and former two-division titlist—was forced to delay the pairing due to a back injury that never fully healed in time to proceed with training camp.
The show went on that night, as Navarrete survived a fourth-round knockdown to drop and stop Australia’s Liam Wilson in the ninth round of an instant classic. He became a three-division titlist that evening but always wanted to beat a fighter of Valdez’s status to earn that achievement.
That mission was completed on Saturday. Navarrete extended his current 33-fight win streak and ran his record to 12-0 in title fights spanning three weight divisions. None were bigger than what he claimed on Saturday, though it accentuated an already solid resume.
“I’m at the point in my career where I’m able to compete at this high level and perform as well as I did against a great fighter like Oscar Valdez,” noted Navarrete.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox