Shakur Stevenson has given up his WBO featherweight strap, and Emanuel Navarrete will be moving up to 126 to fight for the vacant belt. Navarrete (31-0, 27 KOs) has already vacated his WBO 122-lb title so that he could move up to featherweight.
Stevenson, 23, has already been elevated to #1 with the WBO at 126, and he’s now WBO champion Jamel Herring’s top contender. It will be a little surprising if Shakur goes the WBO route because he’s been talking up a storm about wanting to face WBA 130-lb champion Leo Santa Cruz and WBC champ Miguel Berchelt.
Herring isn’t seen as being on the same level as those two fighters, which makes it odd that Stevenson would go after the weakest link among the champions at 130.
Stevenson would have a significant advantage in youth and talent over Herring, and that fight would have only one winner. It would be a better idea for Top Rank to have Stevenson go after the WBA title held by Santa Cruz rather than having him face Herring. By making the Stevenson-Herring fight, Top Rank would be cutting off one of their revenue streams.
The hard-hitting Top Rank-promoted Navarrete will fight one of these three fighters for the vacant WBO 126-pound belt:
- Michael Conlan
- Ruben Villa
- Jessie Magdaleno
#1 WBO Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) is in the best position to face Navarrete for the vacant WBO featherweight title, but we’ll have to see if he’ll take the fight.
The two-time Irish Olympian Conlan is 28-years-old, and it’s unclear whether he and his management feel he’s ready to fight for a world title at this early stage in his three-year pro career. With Conlan’s Olympic experience, he should be prepared to fight for a world title. If not now, then when?
Navarrete would likely do easy work of Conlan if that fight happened. Top Rank has to have a pretty good idea of how the match would end, so it’ll be their call. However, it’s not as if Top Rank can steer Conlan towards a more natural mark at 126 that he’d have a better chance of winning.
He’s going to have problems against any of the champions. If you’re to pick a belt-holder at featherweight that Conlan would have the best chance of beating, it would be WBA ‘regular’ champ Can Xu. However, he’s expected to face IBF champion Josh Warrington next, and the British fighter should win that match.
Top Rank would be better off having Conlan face Warrington rather than throwing him in with Navarrete, who would see him as food and likely would make short work of him.
Navarrete’s vacated WBO super bantamweight title will be fought over by Stephen Fulton and Angelo Leo. Those two are #1 and #2 with the World Boxing Organization at 122.