Saturday could add another entry to an already lengthy list of Fight of the Year contenders when Emanuel Navarrete clashes with Oscar Valdez. The two will battle over Navarrete's WBO super featherweight championship when they meet in Glendale, Arizona (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Navarrete and Valdez were originally scheduled to meet in February for the then-vacant title. Valdez suffered an injury and Liam Wilson stepped in to meet Navarrete, who was fresh to the division. Wilson forced Navarrete into a fierce battle, which Navarrete won by stoppage in the ninth round.
The title win marked the third division where Navarrete (37-1, 31 KO) has held a world championship, having also been champion at super bantamweight and bantamweight. His lone career loss came in just the sixth fight of his career and he has now rattled off 32 consecutive victories.
"I have said that the fight with Valdez was necessary for my career because of everything it represents. The rivalry between Mexicans is something essential," Navarrete said at the final press conference. "It's a good thing for the fight. But boxing fans have also put a lot of pressure on me, saying that my career was missing that cherry on top. They said that I needed an impressive and iconic fight where I exert much more of myself. The fight with Valdez is that kind of fight."
Valdez (31-1, 23 KO) took a stay-busy fight in May, beating Adam Lopez by clear unanimous decision. That win kept Valdez in position to get the fight with Navarrete booked once again.
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Valdez has held gold at featherweight and super featherweight. In February 2021, he won the WBC super featherweight title with a knockout of Miguel Berchelt. After one successful title defense, Valdez suffered his first career defeat when he defended his title in a unification bout with then-WBO champion Shakur Stevenson.
"This fight means the world to me," Valdez said. "The loss to Shakur Stevenson sparked something different in me. It woke something up. It made me realize how much I missed boxing and how much I love the sport. The year away from boxing made me miss it so much. I also miss being a world champion. So, it also means the world to me to have another opportunity to become a world champion again."
The undercard will also feature the return of a coveted heavyweight prospect when Richard Torrez Jr. returns to face Willie Jake Jr. Torrez Jr., 24, is undefeated at 5-0 with five knockouts so far in his career after earning a silver medal at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Let's take a look at the rest of the fight card with the latest odds before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.
Navarrete vs. Valdez fight card, odds
Oscar Valdez -175
Emanuel Navarrete (c) +150
WBO super featherweight title
Lindolfo Delgado -1600
Jair Valtierra +9000
Richard Torrez Jr.
Willie Jake Jr.
Stylistically, this has all the makings of a great action fight. Despite both men having impressive records, neither is a perfect fighter. Navarrete went through hell against Wilson, getting badly rocked at one point before managing to get the stoppage. Valdez has a powerful left hook and if he lands clean, he can hurt and even finish Navarrete.
Valdez is not a big fighter for 130 pounds and will have to deal with Navarrete's reach and unorthodox style. It might be generous to say Valdez has not looked great in his most recent handful of fights. He needs to do everything he can to be more on point against a dangerous opponent like Navarrete.
This feels like a 50/50 fight, with Navarrete needing to keep Valdez stuck on the outside and away from range where he can land that powerful left hook. Valdez needs to get inside Navarrete's jab and force an inside fight. Navarrete sometimes forgets to use his length and instead chooses to mix it up more than he should and that might be what turns this fight. Pick: Oscar Valdez via TKO9
Who wins Emanuel Navarrete vs. Oscar Valdez, and which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's best bets for Saturday, all from the boxing specialist who has netted his followers a profit of nearly $4,000, and find out.