When Emanuel Navarrete meets Liam Wilson on Friday in Glendale, Arizona, for the WBO’s vacant 130-pound championship (10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+), he’ll have the opportunity to join the storied lineage of Mexican boxers with titles in three divisions.
Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs) captured a title at 122 pounds when he upset Isaac Dogboe in 2018, then retained the belt in the immediate rematch. The lanky volume puncher continued to prove his class at junior featherweight with five defenses before moving up to featherweight.
A win over Ruben Villa in October 2020 netted Navarrete the WBO title at 126 pounds, which he still possesses. He has defended that title four times, most recently with a sixth-round KO of Eduardo Baez in August.
Navarrete, 28, is ESPN’s No. 1 featherweight, but he’ll look to inch closer to pound-for-pound contention with a run at 130 pounds. Navarrete was slated to meet fellow Mexican — and two-division champion — Oscar Valdez on Friday before Valdez withdrew with an injury.
If Navarrete beats Wilson, the plan calls for Navarrete to defend his title in a rescheduled bout against Valdez this summer, a bout that was highly anticipated for the entertainment it’s sure to deliver.
Against Wilson, Navarrete should find a much easier challenge at his new weight class.
Before the two step in the ring, ESPN answers your burning questions on the latest in boxing, starting with Friday’s main event:
Will Navarrete be able to keep both his titles moving forward if he wins on Friday?
It’s a pretty safe bet Navarrete wins — he’s an 18-to-1 favorite against the Australian — so come Saturday morning, he should find himself a champion in two divisions simultaneously. What follows will likely be a letter from the WBO informing Navarrete he has 30 days to decide which division he’ll campaign at moving forward.
When I asked Navarrete, he said he would take his time following the fight to gauge how he feels at 130 pounds before picking his weight class. And while that may be true, it’s impossible to envision Navarrete passing up the fight against Valdez at junior lightweight.
After all, he has already signed for the bout, and it would easily be the biggest of his career (with a career-best payday to accompany it). Unless Navarrete truly struggles with Wilson, it’s also a safe bet he leaves 126 pounds. Aside from Valdez, there are a few marketable fights for him at 130 pounds.
But if Navarrete can continue to fine-tune his craft, maybe he’ll be good enough, if not big enough, to contend with some of the players at 135 pounds in the future.
Can Jared Anderson pose a real threat to Tyson Fury down the road? https://t.co/L38hBH6zMj
— Hitters Boxing Report (@BoxingHitters) January 31, 2023
Much of that will depend on how much longer Tyson Fury fights after insisting that he was retired last year. Fury turns 35 in August, and so far, he has shown no signs of slowing down. He has, however, already changed up his style, a move Fury told me in December was due to mounting injuries to his hands and elbows.
Fury used to box from the outside on the strength of his quick jab and feet. Now he elects to battle it out on the inside and has proved just as adept in close quarters.
Anderson just turned 23 and is coming off a career-best showing, a second-round TKO win over gatekeeper Jerry Forrest in December. He throws punches with tremendous volume (over 100 in that opening round against Forrest) and appears to have the requisite blend of size and athleticism to hang with the best at heavyweight.
Just how good Anderson is — and might be — remains to be seen. Before we have a better feel for his game, he’ll have to step up in class against a true contender. But Anderson is plenty familiar with Fury from his time as a sparring partner ahead of The Gypsy King’s second fight with Deontay Wilder.
Anderson will surely need a couple of more years to develop, and by that point, Fury could be near the end, setting up a passing-of-the-torch-fight. Never say never. But in the meantime, Fury has far more important matters to deal with.
What are some off the wall behind the scenes demands a fighter what’s another fight to do? I heard some fighters try to dictate what color some boxers can wear into the fight
— j fernandez (@Weto1) January 30, 2023
Fighters — and really, their teams — will negotiate anything and everything to gain an edge on fight night (and in their bank accounts). Some of the more basic demands involve the size of the ring.
If the A-side is a slick boxer facing a pressure-fighting puncher, you can bet their team will push for a large ring, usually 22 feet. The flip side of that works, too — the pressure fighter pushing for a small ring (maybe 18 feet).
Then there’s often the matter of who enters the ring last (and who is announced in the ring last). When there’s no true A-side, this is more of a discussion. Sometimes a champion who is the B-side will face a star fighter, and still enter the ring last, or at least be introduced first.
Other points of contention involve travel. How many flights does each fighter’s team receive? How many first-class tickets? The bigger the event, and the bigger the star, the more he or she will have allocated. Hotels, too. Fighters will receive X amount of rooms, X amount of suites and then an allotment of tickets for friends and family.
And we can’t forget the PED testing. Often one boxer will push for it, but there are various levels of testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, and the matter of who pays for the testing is often negotiated, too.
What interest is left for Crawford vs Spence in your opinion?
— More Than A Fight (@MoreThan_Fight) January 30, 2023
I believe there’s never been more interest. If the long, drawn-out build toward Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao taught us anything, it’s that the longer you dangle a super fighter, the more interest percolates.
The idea of a meeting between Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. continues to elude boxing fans, and each passing day they aren’t signed to fight each other is another day spent yearning for it.
Of course, the window will close at some point. Once one of them appears vulnerable inside the ring, interest in the fight could dim. They’ve shown no indications of deterioration thus far, but Crawford turns 36 in September.
More troublesome is the weight. Spence is slated to fight Keith Thurman in his next outing, perhaps in May, but at junior middleweight. Will Spence still be able to get back to 147 pounds? Can he do it comfortably? If the Crawford-Spence matchup happens at 154 pounds instead of welterweight for the undisputed championship, it loses much of its luster.
If boxing can deliver this fight later in 2023, or even the first half of 2024, it should be bigger than ever. We’re running out of time, though.