Emanuel Navarrete is, in some ways, a throwback to fighters of a bygone era. Unlike most fighters at the world title level, Navarette is very active, fighting 11 times since 2018. Despite that activity, Navarette will be in action for the first time since October when he steps into the ring against former title challenger Christopher Diaz on Saturday night from Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Navarrete (32-1, 27 KO) won his first world championship in December 2018, defeating Isaac Dogboe to win the WBO super bantamweight championship. He would defend the title successfully against Dogboe the following year in the first of four 2019 title defenses. One more title defense would follow to start 2020 before Navarrete made the move up in weight to featherweight, capturing the then-vacant WBO title in a decision win over Ruben Villa.
The biggest knock on Navarrete during his run as champion has been that, despite the admirable activity levels, he has fought opposition that is a step below top-tier in almost every title defense. The wins over Dogboe and Villa were solid, but there's not a lot of depth on Navarrete's resume beyond those victories. Add to that a win over Villa that Navarrete almost gave away down the stretch, with two knockdowns for Navarrete serving as the difference in the fight.
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Diaz (26-2, 16 KO) fought Masayuki Ito for the WBO super featherweight in 2018, losing a unanimous decision in a fight where he showed plenty of heart but was largely outgunned from the jump. The loss somewhat cemented Diaz's place in the sport as a capable fighter near the top of boxing's "second tier." With that perspective, Diaz was then placed in the role of "opponent" to the rising Shakur Stevenson, giving Stevenson a solid 10 rounds of experience while losing a wide decision.
After a pair of wins over lower-tier opposition, Diaz now gets another chance at becoming world champion, though it's a big ask for him to take the title from Navarrete.
While Navarrete and Diaz will be getting the spotlight, more eyes will likely be on action further down the card when Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga makes his return to the ring. Berlanga may be one of the hottest prospects in the sport as he's started his career with 16 first-round knockouts in 16 appearances. He'll look to add another name to that list against Demond Nicholson on Saturday night. Below is the complete fight card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
Navarrete vs. Diaz card, odds
Emanuel Navarrete (c) -900
Christopher Diaz +600
WBO featherweight title
Josue Vargas -2000
Willie Shaw +1000
Edgar Berlanga -2500
Demond Nicholson +1200
Orlando Gonzalez Ruiz
Juan Antonio Lopez
Jaycob Bradley Gomez Zayas
- Date: April 24
- Location: Silver Spurs Arena -- Kissimmee, Florida
- Start time: 10 p.m. ET
- How to watch: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Diaz is a capable fighter at anywhere but the world title level. He still has some meaningful skills, with a good jab and the ability to counter well. Those skills are offset somewhat by the fact that Diaz is going to have to work in past eight inches of reach disadvantage. Navarrete is a boxing fan's dream both in activity and fighting style, but he is not unbeatable. The Villa fight was a very close call with Navarrete not managing to get the finish after two early knockdowns allowed Villa to outwork him and make the fight close. Still, Navarrete beats guys on Diaz's level. What he would do against the better fighters at 126 pounds? Let's hope we find out one day. Pick: Emanuel Navarrete via UD