In a heroic performance, Former two-division world champion Emanuel Navarrete (37-1, 31 KO) tasted the canvas early but came on strong in the second half of the fight to stop the upset-minded little-known Liam Wilson (11-2, 7 KOs) in the ninth round to claim the vacant WBO super featherweight title on Friday night at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Looking soft around the middle, Navarrete knocked Wilson down in the ninth and then finished him off with a barrage a punches that resulted in the referee stepping in to halt the bout. The time of the stoppage was at 1:57 of the ninth.
Navarrete was knocked down in the fourth and hurt in the sixth round. He spit his mouthpiece out in the fourth after being dropped by Wilson, which ultimately saved him from being stopped.
Tonight’s undercard results:
Light welterweight Arnold Barboza Jr (28-0, 10 KOs) used his superior size to defeat the tough former two-division world champion Jose Pedraza (29-5-1, 14 KOs) by a 10 round unanimous decision in the chief support bout.
Barboza, 31, looked outstanding in the first five rounds, outboxing the smaller, weaker Pedraza, who looked like he lacked the size & power to win. However, in the second half of the fight, Barboza appeared to run out of gas, and he took a lot of hard shots from Pedraza.
After the contest, Barboza Jr said he intentionally chose to slug with Pedraza in the last three rounds. In reality, Barboza looked exhausted and could no longer keep Pedraza off of him, so he was forced to stand and punch, and he didn’t look happy about it.
When interviewed after the fight, Barboza said he wants a world title shot or a fight with Teofimo Lopez. Unfortunately for Barboza, he’s unlikely to get either unless he wants to face WBC light welterweight champion Regis Prograis.
Top Rank probably let that happen because Barboza would be over his head with very little chance of victory. As for Teofimo, he’s shown zero interest in fighting Barboza Jr, and that’s not likely to change after tonight. Ideally, Teofimo should fight Barboza Jr, but he’s not going to do it because the risk doesn’t match the reward.
Undefeated heavyweight prospect Richard Torrez Jr. (5-0, 5 KOs) defeated James Bryant (6-3, 4 KOs) by a first round injury stoppage. The 2020 Olympic heavyweight silver medalist Torrez Jr knocked the 37-year-old Bryant down with a powerful left uppercut near the end of the round.
The shot caused Bryant to fall backward, resulting in him hurting his right ankle while falling. When Bryant got back to his feet, his legs were unsteady, and he was visibly limping.
Surprisingly, the referee allowed the fight to continue. However, the round ended seconds later, which saved the badly hurt Bryant from being dropped again.
In between rounds, Bryant told his corner that his ankle was injured, and the fight was then stopped after they informed the referee about the injury. The time of the stoppage was at 3:00 of round one.
The uppercut that Torrez Jr nailed Bryant with would have knocked out anybody in the heavyweight division. The 23-year-old Torrez Jr’s power is top-notch. However, at 6’2″, he’s going to need to figure out how to deal with the bigger heavyweights in the division.
Bryant nailed Torrez Jr a couple of times while he was getting in range to let his hands go. If there were a bigger heavyweight, he might have had problems.
“When you land a punch like that, it feels like there’s no glove there,” said Torrez Jr.
Undefeated light welterweight Andres “Savage” Cortes (19-0, 10 KOs) dominated an overmatched Luis Melendez (17-3, 13 KOs), winning a bloody 10 round unanimous decision by the scores of 100-90, 100-90, and 100-90.
Cortes was cut badly over his lead eye from a headbutt in the sixth round, but his cutman did an excellent job of keeping it under control for the last four rounds.
Melendez wasn’t showing much interest in trading with Cortes, as he focused on tying him up and stalling out the rounds in the second half of the fight.
Unbeaten middleweight Nico Ali Walsh (8-0, 5 KOs) outworked Eduardo Ayala (9-3-1, 3 KOs), beating him by a tougher-than-expected six-round unanimous decision.
Walsh, the grandson of boxing great Muhammad Ali, landed a scoring right hand to the head of Ayala in the second round to put him on the canvas.
From there, Ayala fought back tooth & nail, forcing the 22-year-old Walsh to fight on the inside, doing a good job of smothering his power and nailing him with looping shots.
By the 5th round, Walsh’s right cheek was red & swollen and looked like he’d been through it. In the sixth round, Walsh finished strong, attacking Ayala’s body and seemingly taking much of the fight out of him.
The scores were 60-53, 59-54, and 59-54. In hindsight, Walsh would have had greater success against Ayala if he had targeted his body instead of head-hunting most of the contest. Ayala fought well for a fighter that was brought in as the opponent for Walsh.
If Ayala had more punching power, Walsh would have been in trouble tonight because he blocked almost nothing thrown at him. There was zero head movement from Walsh, and he’s got to work on that because he’s not going to go much further before he suffers his first loss.
In a spectacular performance, 2016 Olympian light welterweight Lindolfo Delgado (17-0, 13 KOs) pounded out a workmanlike eight round unanimous decision over Clarence Booth (21-7, 13 KOs). The scores were 80-71, 79-72, and 79-72 win. Booth was down in the eighth.
Lightweight Emiliano Vargas (2-0, 2 KOs) beat Francisco Duque (1-1) by a round unanimous decision with 40-36, 40-36, and 40-36.
Preview: The undercard is superb, with unbeaten 140-lb contender Arnold Barboza Jr (27-0, 10 KO) fighting Jose Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KO) in a 10 round bout.
2020 Olympic heavyweight silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr (4-0, 4 KO) fights James Bryant (6-2, 4 KO) in a six round fight. Torrez Jr has the power to go far in the division, but he’s got to find a way to deal with the bigger heavyweights.
In the amateur ranks, Torrez was twice wiped out by 6’6″ Bakhodir Jalolov representing Uzbekistan, who nailed him frequently with hard shots while he was trying to come in punching range.
Navarrete is going to have to be careful tonight with his habit of throwing leaping uppercuts from the outside. He’s been able to get away with that tactic at 122 & 126 because he always had a tremendous size advantage over his smaller opponents, but now that he’s fighting at 130, he’ll be facing a fighter his own size tonight in Wilson, and he could get nailed coming in.
One can argue that a major reason for Navarrete’s success during his career was his being bigger than his opponents. That size advantage is now going to be a thing of the past with him fighting at super featherweight.
Yeah, Navarrete will still be bigger than some of his opponents at 130, but many of them will be the same size, if not bigger. They’ll be able to reach Navarrete with their shots and possibly hurt him.
He’s been fighting weaker punchers, and now he’ll be facing guys with more power, the same size as him, who can take his shots and return fire.
Despite winning titles in two weight classes, stardom has eluded Navarrete, and a big reason for that is that he’s not faced the elite in any of the divisions in that he’s captured world titles.
When Navarrete fought at super bantamweight, it was dead weight class then, with virtually no notable names for him to fight.
At featherweight, Navarrete found himself ignored by the top fighters, Josh Warrington, Leigh Wood, Leo Santa Cruz, Rey Vargas, Gary Russell Jr, Mark Magsayo, and Brandon Figueroa.
Now that Navarrete is moving up to capture the vacant WBO 130-lb title, he’ll likely be matched against Oscar Valdez later this year in a fight that will capture a lot of attention.
If Navarrete defeats Valdez, that would greatly help boost his profile in the sport and perhaps result in him being put on the pound-for-pound list.
Emanuel Navarrete (36-1, 30 KO) is in a perfect position tonight to capture his third division world title with him facing Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KO) in a 12 round fight for the vacant WBO super featherweight title at the Desert Diamond Arena, Glendale, Arizona.
The 28-year-old Navarrete & Aussie are headlining in a Top Rank-promoted card on ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, with the main portion of the event starting at 10:00 p.m. ET.