Emanuel Navarrete successfully made the second defence of his WBO featherweight world title by beating Joet Gonzalez on points after a hard fight. The judges gave in cards of 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112, I thought these cards fairly represented the fight.
Navarrete and Gonzalez got off to a fast start and kept that pace up until the final bell with the two actually throwing more punches in the 12th than any other round. Joet Gonzalez would have flashes of success with right hands but every time he did Navarrete would throw back in three or four punch combinations and simply outworked Gonzalez.
Gonzalez seemed to hurt Navarrete once or twice with shots in the 4th but the champion rebounded well and went to work with his unique combinations. Gonzalez showed tremendous heart to stay in the fight as Navarrete landed huge punches on him throughout and most fighters in his position would have taken a knee or been stopped. Navarrete also showed real grit as Gonzalez brought the fight to him for twelve rounds and stuck around even after Navarrete landed his best punches on him. A lot of fighters would have got discouraged after seeing their opponent take their best punches but Navarrete bit down on his gum shield and went to battle round after round.
At the end of the fight Navarrete had clearly outworked Gonzalez and had also landed the more significant punches. He took a deserved decision while Gonzalez improved his stock in defeat due to the performance he put in. Gonzalez will likely need a fair amount of time off as he took a lot of punches and his face was cut and badly swollen.
I thought the commentary was favorable to Gonzalez as they gave him credit for landing one or two punches a round and regularly said Navarrete was hitting gloves or arms, something Joet Gonzalez’s bruised face would disagree with. It was a competitive fight but not necessarily in rounds won and a 10-2 scoreline is more than acceptable.
Emanuel Navarrete is now 9-0 in title fights with three of those being at featherweight. He’s stated he wants the big fights next and I agree that this should be the next step in his career. At Super Bantamweight he couldn’t get a unification due to promotional politics and also struggled to get good opponents but made up for that by being active, making five title defences in under a year. At Featherweight his competition has got better as he beat former amateur standout Ruben Villa to win the world title and then defended it twice versus top 15 contenders Christopher Diaz and Joet Gonzalez. Looking through the top 15 of the WBO is a grim site as either Navarrete has already beaten them or they wouldn’t be competitive fights in the slightest. Mark Magsayo is ranked number two and would be a fun fight but hes unfortunately going down the WBC route, with a fight between him and the champion Gary Russel Jr happening sometime in the coming months. Mauricio Lara is ranked 8th but sustained a terrible cut in his last fight so won’t be available until the middle of next year, this is unfortunate as a fight between the two would have been an all out war.
Outside of those two names I don’t believe anybody in the top 15 gives Navarrete a hard fight which means getting a unification fight is important. The unification with the WBC isn’t likely to happen due to a mandatory being called and the WBA has the same problem. The WBA is currently working their way towards only having one champion in the division which means lots of ordered mandatory fights and no unification’s. This leaves the IBF belt which is currently held by Kid Galahad , a skilled technician from the UK who only recently won the title. Galahad is making a defence in November versus Kiko Martinez who seemingly has been around forever. It’s not a terrible first defence but it’s also one I see Galahad winning convincingly which should then open him up to be available for unification’s.
A fight between Navarrete and Galahad would be great and would also be a much needed unification. Unfortunately I’d be a little surprised if the fight happened as commercially I imagine Galahad has about the same value or even less as Navarrete’s last two opponents and so Arum may not want to pay for the fight. With Galahad also making a voluntary defence next it wouldn’t surprise me if the IBF ordered him to fight a mandatory especially as he won a vacant title. The final reason is that Eddie Hearn, his promoter, may not want to risk Galahad in a hard fight in America when he could make big fights in the UK which is something which has been happening with this IBF title for years now. The title has been in British hands since 2015 and only one non-Brit has challenged for the belt since 2017. I do hold some hope that this fight will happen simply due to neither having a vast variety of good opponents to face in the immediate future.
If not a fight against Galahad then a move up in weight to super feather could be the next step in Navarrete’s career. Navarrete’s team seemed interested in a fight with Oscar Valdez the WBC super featherweight world champ and were willing to move up in weight early next year to make the fight. This would be a great match up and one that stylistically would be hard for Navarrete as Valdez has the power to make him pay if he falls out of position, something which Navarrete does fairly often though it’s all part of his style. Valdez will likely unify with the winner of Jamel Herring versus Shakur Stevenson but afterwards Navarrete could challenge the winner in a huge fight.
If Navarrete can’t get the big fights next then he can always get back to regularly defending his title, which is still something fight fans want to see due to Navarrete’s exciting style and his willingness to always go for the finish. Navarrete is one of my favorite fighters to watch and is at least in my opinion the best featherweight on the planet, hopefully he can get the big fights to really prove it sooner rather than later.