Since turning pro in 2012, Emanuel Navarrete has scoffed at the notion of resting his body, despite the number of wars he’s endured in the ring. In most cases, although up-and-coming fighters walk through the ropes frequently, once they’ve established themselves, their once arduous and consistent schedule begins to wane.
However, shortly after pilfering the WBO super bantamweight title from Isaac Dogboe in 2018, Navarrete maintained a heavy workload. At one point, over a stretch of 11-months, the Mexican native successfully recorded five title defenses. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, opted for rest and relaxation following his 12-round brawl against Joet Gonzalez in October of 2021.
Although his protracted time on the sidelines was initially viewed as essential, Navarrete believes it hampered him in his latest performance. In front of a fairly jam-packed crowd at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California, late Saturday night, Navarette fought listlessly against Eduardo Baez. While he eventually ended his man’s title aspirations in the sixth round, the Mexican star pointed a blaming finger in the direction of his time away from the ring as he explained what went wrong.
“The inactivity,” said Navarrete to a group of reporters. “The fact that it was kind of complicated to land shots on him, all of those things made it a complicated fight.”
Regardless of the manner in which Navarrete registered his victory, he now finds himself at a career crossroads. After spending the better part of the past two years competing and defending his WBO featherweight crown, Navarrete has begun to ponder a move up in weight. Ultimately, his final decision will only be influenced by the challenges and monetary possibilities that are floated in his direction.
“I think that depends on the opportunities that will present themselves at 130 or the opportunities that will appear at 126 pounds,” said Navarrete when asked if he will move up in weight next. “It all depends on that, whether or not we stay at 126 or if we move up to 130.”
While Navarrete is noncommittal, Bob Arum, his longtime promoter, is hoping that his 27-year-old champion will elect to make the move four pounds north. Currently, Arum is of the belief that a showdown between Navarrete and current unified 130-pound titlist, Shakur Stevenson, is a mouthwatering one.
Stevenson, a former 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is coming off a sound beating he delivered to former multi-division champion, Oscar Valdez. In the short term, the 25-year-old budding star is giving no thought to a possible matchup against Navarrete as he prepares tirelessly for his September 23rd showdown against Robson Conceicao.
Should Stevenson have his hand raised in victory, Arum has expressed an interest in pitting the two against one another. However, if the final decision were up to Navarrete, he would rather take on a fighter that would produce a much more fan-friendly clash.
“I think the more interesting fight of the two would be against Valdez because of the styles. People would like to see me fight him then against Shakur but again, because of the styles.”
Currently, the 31-year-old Valdez is still licking his wounds following the first defeat of his career against Stevenson. Should he opt to remain at 130-pounds, Navarrete has made his feelings known that a showdown between them would produce fireworks.
Ultimately, while Valdez is his preferred option, Navarrete won’t eschew a showdown against Stevenson if it were presented to him.
“I want to fight either one of them.”