Navarrete keeps 130 title, vacates 126 belt; Valdez showdown on tap
Wilson upset with referee's actions in loss to Navarrete
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Emanuel Navarrete did not wait long to make it official, notifying the WBO on Thursday — well inside the 14-day window he was allowed — that he has vacated the organization’s featherweight world title and will maintain the junior lightweight belt he won last Friday.
The WBO announced, and promoter Top Rank confirmed, that Navarrete sent a letter to the WBO letting the organization know of his decision.
Navarrete survived a fourth-round knockdown to rally for a ninth-round knockout of Australia’s Liam Wilson to win the vacant WBO junior lightweight title in an early candidate for fight of the year in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, California.
Navarrete, who became a three-division titleholder, having previously also held the WBO junior featherweight title, and Wilson squared off for one of the titles stripped from then-unified WBO/WBC champion Shakur Stevenson when he failed to make for a defense against Robson Conceicao in September.
Going into last week’s bout, Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs), 28, knew that if he won he would have two weeks following the fight to notify the WBO of which title he would retain. Given that he has had problems making the 126-pound featherweight limit in recent fights — and with a big-money showdown with Mexican countryman Oscar Valdez likely next — it came as no surprise he opted to remain at 130 pounds rather than going back down in weight.
The featherweight title vacancy will be filled by the fight between two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw, and former junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs), 28, of Ghana. They are set to fight in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on April 1 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Initially, Ramirez-Dogboe was set to be for the vacant WBO interim featherweight title with Navarrete obligated to face the winner if he returned to the division. With the title now vacant, the bout was upgraded.
Wilson was a replacement for Navarrete’s original opponent, former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist Valdez in a highly anticipated showdown. Valdez withdrew due to a rib injury but he is healed and was ringside to watch Navarrete-Wilson.
The hope was that they would meet next in the rescheduled fight. However, after such a grueling fight with Wilson, Navarrete probably won’t return until the summer to fight Valdez.
That means Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), 32, who has not fought since getting knocked down and losing a lopsided decision to Stevenson in a unification fight last April, will be lined up for an interim fight that Top Rank is aiming to do in May.
The next move for Wilson (11-2, 7 KOs), 26, is unclear but he announced his arrival on the world scene with such a strong performance against Navarrete in a loss that was tinged in controversy.
The reason was because of how long Navarrete got to recover from the fourth-round knockdown when he spit out his mouthpiece and referee Chris Flores took several seconds to replace it. But Wilson also hit Navarrete behind the head while he was down from the knockdown and Flores did not call the fouls.
The day after the fight Wilson spoke to media members in a video call and lamented the additional time Navarrete received.
Had Navarrete not received extra time “it would have given me another 20 or so seconds (to stop him), and I really felt I was one punch away from ending the fight,” Wilson said. “I hurt him pretty bad. He’s already hurting and in a pretty bad state. It kills me because in that moment, I was so close to being world champion.”
He was disappointed in how Flores handled the situation that led to 27 seconds elapsing from the time Navarrete got dropped until the fight resumed.
“I just felt it wasn’t the fighter I had to worry about,” Wilson said. “Officials, the way the whole thing was run. I’ve dropped him; (the fight) should’ve been over.
“I don’t want to be the guy that gets on camera and sounds like a sore loser, but it’s hard when I just feel like everything I worked hard for for 17 years just got taken away from me by some guy that probably hasn’t even had friggin’ boxing gloves on in his life. It was pretty blatantly evident they were against me. It was very evident that they wanted to make a Navarrete versus Oscar Valdez. They had a date scheduled for it, I think June or May. So, they were looking past me from the get go.”
Valdez/Navarrete photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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The referee was a dickhead cost Wilson any chance of winning
Liam fought a great fight and made me a fan for him. But he needs to stop making excuses against the referee. He couldn't finished the job against Navarrete. Navarrete pulled an expert veteran move by spitting out his mouth piece to the ring mat forcing the ref to pick up the mouth piece and place it in Navarrete's mouth backwards at first then correctly, giving Navarrete extra time unwillingly. That's what a good veteran boxer does when they are in trouble.