By Jake Donovan, photos by Zanfer
Emanuel Navarrete will celebrate his first full year as a reigning titlist in his favorite place in the world—in the ring, for the fifth time during that span.
The streaking junior featherweight title claimant is officially set for the fourth defense of his crown, as he will face countryman and admitted out-of-the-ring friend Francisco Horta. The pair of Mexican boxers both made weight for their scheduled 12-round main event, which takes Saturday evening live on ESPN+ from Auditorio GNP Seguros in Puebla, Mexico.
Navarrete (29-1, 22KOs) continues to comfortably squeeze his 5’7” frame into a junior featherweight uniform, as he checked in at 121.9 pounds. Cancun’s Horta (20-3-1, 10KOs) also weighed 121.9 pounds for his first career title fight.
The bout comes exactly 52 weeks after Navarrete—who turns 25 next January—ruined Fighter of the Year hopes for previously unbeaten Isaac Dogboe, soundly outpointing the squat Ghanaian boxer to claim the title. Three successful defenses have followed, including a one-sided 12th round stoppage of Dogboe in their rematch this past May, along with early knockout wins over Francisco de Vaca and Juan Miguel Elorde taking place just four weeks over the summer.
Horta steps well up in class, but enters on the heels of a 13-fight unbeaten streak, including an eight-round points win over Francisco Alarcon in his most recent outing this past August.
The evening’s chief support has reigning junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas in the eighth defense of his belt as the Filipino southpaw faces Chile’s Miguel Gonzalez (31-2, 8KOs).
Ancajas (31-1-2, 21KOs) came in right at the 115-pound limit in hopes of once again defending the title he claimed in a 12-round win over McJoe Arroyo more than three years ago.
Gonzalez weighed 114.6 pounds in his first official title challenge, having won two straight since an 8th round knockout loss to unbeaten Andrew Moloney in their title eliminator earlier this year. The bout marks just his second career fight outside of Chile, having dropped a 12-round decision to Paul Butler in Sept. 2013, one year prior to Butler going on to become a bantamweight titlist.
Also of interest on the show is a featherweight bout between three-time title challenger Miguel Marriaga (28-3, 24KOs) and Alfredo Mejia (14-2-3, 5KOs).
In a welcomed sight, Marriaga will see his bout go through as originally scheduled, which wasn’t quite the case for his last outing. The 33-year old Colombian—whose lone three losses all came at the title level?weighed 126.5 pounds in hopes of extending his three-fight win streak versus Baja California’s Mejia, who checked in at 126.7 pounds.
Marriaga fights for the first time since May, when he scored a 3rd round knockout over Ruben Cervera, an emergency replacement for Naciff Martinez who was sent home after showing up during fight week a whopping 20 pounds over the contracted limit.
All three bouts will stream live Saturday evening on ESPN+, which begins 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox