By: Rich Lopez
One of the most dynamic and exciting fighters in boxing will be taking center stage on Friday night. After a short championship run at super bantamweight, Emanuel Navarrete is ready to make his featherweight debut.
Emanuel “El Vaquero” Navarrete (31-1, 27 KO’s) of Mexico City, Mexico, made a name for himself in 2018 when he defeated the unbeaten Isaac Dogboe by unanimous decision for the WBO Super Bantamweight title. Dogboe, if you recall, was having a great 2018 and was a candidate for fighter of the year. However, Navarrete defeated him at the end of 2018 to derail his run. Nobody knew much of Navarrete at that time, but if you followed his career in Mexico, you knew he was a real threat to Dogboe. To prove his victory over Dogboe was no fluke, Navarrete defeated him in a rematch in 2019 with an 11th round stoppage.
Navarrete is a tall super bantamweight fighter with a long reach. Added to that, he has punching power. Since the Dogboe victories, Navarrete has become one of the most active champions in the game. He made three successful title defenses in 2019 and all of them by stoppage. The 25 year old Mexican native has become a fan favorite due to his aggressive style and his willingness to mix it up with his opponents. Before the pandemic, he made his fifth defense of his title with a stoppage victory over Jeo Santisima on the undercard of Wilder vs Fury II.
Unlike most fighters who used COVID-19 as a protracted vacation period, Navarette jumped right back into the mix at the height of the pandemic in mid-June, stopping the unheralded Uriel Lopez in the sixth round.
Since Navarrete is tall for the weight class and was having a difficult time making the weight, he will now be fighting at featherweight.
He will be fighting for the vacant WBO World Featherweight title tomorrow night against in his featherweight debut against top contender Ruben Villa.
Ruben “RV4” Villa (18-0, 5 KO’s) of Salinas, California, will look to make the best of his first title shot. The 23 year old southpaw was an outstanding amateur boxer and a National Golden Gloves winner in 2015. His run in the unpaid ranks led to victories over current young stars Devin Haney and Shakur Stevenson. After a 116-17 record, Villa elected to fatten his wallet when he turned pro in 2016. By all accounts, the move was a sagacious one as Villa has racked up wins by out boxing and dominating his opponents. He has good hand speed and movement and possesses an excellent jab. Villa has stayed active in his career and has been showcased numerous times on Shobox.
What to expect in this showdown?
On paper, this is a great fight and we can expect a war. Navarrete will be the pressure fighter while Villa will be the counter puncher. As far as strategy goes, Navarrete would need to try to cut off the ring and stay busy as he usually does. Also, body punching can help to slow down the crafty Villa and it would be in his best interest to avoid headhunting his slippery opponent. For Villa, he will need to focus on his jab, use angles and counter effectively.
Navarrete is the favorite to win the fight and for good reason. So far he has stopped his opponents based on sheer aggression and volume punches. Also, he has fought better opposition and has more professional experience. However, he has flaws. One being how easy he is to hit. Villa is the better, more polished boxer of the two and so far he has beaten aggressive fighters. The one thing that can work against Villa is that he only has 5 KO’s in his 18 wins. So in this case, Villa would need to box the perfect fight as he isn’t likely to hurt Navarrete.
Will Navarette make a splash at featherweight with another stoppage victory or will Villa pull the upset? Tune in to ESPN at 10 P.M Eastern time to find out.