Notebook: Navarrete, Gonzalez ready for Friday night featherweight title battle
Berlanga has biceps tear; James-Butaev official; Galahad defense set; Teofimo interview; Quick hits; Show and tell
From 2018 to 2020, Emanuel Navarrete defended his WBO junior featherweight title five times before it became too difficult to continue making 122 pounds, so he moved up to the 126-pound featherweight division.
After a warm-up fight in the division in June 2020, he scored two knockdowns and won a unanimous decision over Ruben Villa last October to claim the vacant WBO featherweight crown.
He stopped Christopher Diaz in the 12th round of a one-sided first defense on April 24 and now is set for his second defense against Joet Gonzalez on Friday in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at Pechanga Arena in San Diego. The card will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 8:30 p.m. with the main card doubleheader beginning at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET.
Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs), 26, of Mexico, said he is as comfortable as he can be in his new weight division with no plans to move up any time soon.
“I feel very strong. I’ve seen changes in my body for the best, and I think this division is the best for me,” Navarrete said through an interpreter at the final news conference on Wednesday. “Moving up is not something that I’m considering now. I’m just focused on the fight with Joet. What I’ve heard is comments, but I’m not really thinking about moving up.”
He faces a formidable challenger in Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs), 28, of Los Angeles, who will be getting his second title shot. In October 2019, he lost a near-shutout decision to Shakur Stevenson for the then-vacant WBO belt. He has won his only fight since, a lopsided 10-round decision over former title challenger Miguel Marriaga 13 months ago.
“I think this is going to be a tough fight,” Navarrete said. “He is a tough opponent. We are basically fighting in his hometown, closer to where he lives. Without a doubt, he’s a great fighter. He always comes forward. I expect a tough fight.”
Gonzalez is excited for another title opportunity after the poor showing against Stevenson, who befuddled him and outboxed him.
“Sometimes it’s just not your night,” Gonzalez said. “I work hard and train hard for every fight. I don’t take nobody lightly. It just simply wasn’t my night. I rebounded with a win over Marriaga, and I think I showed the public I’m here to fight the best out there.
“It’s not an easy fight. It’s a tough fight. Navarrete has a style that’s very unique, very hard to figure out, and that’s why he’s a champion. I trained really hard, and I’m coming with everything. I’m planning on leaving Friday night with that belt. It means everything. It’s my childhood dream. I always wanted to be a world champion. That’s why I started boxing in the beginning. That’s the plan, to bring that belt back home.”
In the 10-round welterweight co-feature, San Diego’s Giovani Santillan (27-0, 15 KOs), 29, will have his first hometown fight in more than seven years against fellow southpaw Angel Ruiz (17-1, 12 KOs), 24, of Mexico.
Berlanga has torn biceps
Big-punching super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga underwent an MRI on Wednesday and was diagnosed with a torn left biceps, manager Keith Connolly told Fight Freaks Unite.
Connolly said Berlanga will have surgery to repair the injury, probably next week, and will not fight on ESPN on Dec. 9 in Vasiliy Lomachenko’s co-feature at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York as originally planned.
Berlanga (18-0, 16 KOs), 24, a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York, suffered the injury during the third round of his tough 10-round unanimous decision over former world title challenger Marcelo Esteban Coceres (30-3-1, 16 KOs) on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III undercard on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Berlanga won 96-93 on all three scorecards, but went the distance for the second consecutive fight after beginning his pro career with 16 straight first-round knockouts. He also got dropped for the first time on a counter right hand in the ninth round.
Top Rank had a four-fight plan in place for Berlanga that included the fight Saturday followed by the Dec. 11 fight, a March fight in Puerto Rico and a Madison Square Garden main event in June on the weekend of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade.
Connolly said with the December date out due to the injury they are “targeting March in Puerto Rico” for the next fight.
The fight between secondary welterweight titlist Jamal James and mandatory challenger Radzhab Butaev was made official on Wednesday.
They will meet in the main event of a Showtime-televised tripleheader on Oct. 30 (10 p.m. ET) at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions announced.
The fight is part of the four-man box-off ordered by the WBA in an effort to get down to one titleholder in the sanctioning body. “Super” titlist Yordenis Ugas was ordered to defend against Eimantas Stanionis in the other fight with the winners to meet.
James (27-1, 12 KOs), 33, of Minneapolis, who has won seven fights in a row since a 10-round decision loss to Ugas in 2016, will be making the first defense of the vacant belt he won by decision over Thomas Dulorme in August 2020.
“I’m excited to finally get back in the ring and defend my title,” James said. “This will be the fight where I show everyone why I'm elite in this profession and should be recognized as one of the best.”
Brooklyn, New York-based Russia native Butaev (13-0, 10 KOs), 27, outpointed Alexander Besputin for the then-vacant secondary title in November 2019, but the result was changed to a no contest and Besputin was stripped for testing positive for a banned substance. Butaev was named mandatory challenger after the Besputin fight result was overturned and has won his only fight since in December.
“We’re excited to finally get in the ring against James. I’ve seen how James fights and it’s definitely going to be a clash of styles,” Butaev said. “I can just promise that I’m going to bring the war and make this an exciting fight. I’m going to start writing my history on Oct. 30.”
In the co-feature, fast-rising welterweight Jaron Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs), 24, of Philadelphia, the 2020 prospect of the year, will face Dulorme (25-5-1, 16 KOs), 31, of Puerto Rico, in a 10-rounder.
“This is another step towards becoming world champion,” Ennis said. “They haven’t seen nothing yet. It’s time for me to continue to shine and be great. I can’t wait to show out and have some fun.”
Dulorme has lost two fights in a row, to Stanionis and James.
“I think in the Stanionis fight (in April) I demonstrated that I am still at the top level,” Dulorme said of the competitive decision loss. “A lot of people told me I won that fight and I thought I did too. I’m excited to face Ennis because he’s a good fighter, but he hasn’t fought anyone like me.”
In the opening bout, rising lightweight contender Michel Rivera (21-0, 14 KOs), 23, a Dominican Republic native fighting out of Miami, will face Matias Romero (24-1, 8 KOs), 25, of Argentina, in a 10-rounder.
“Romero made a big mistake taking this fight,” Rivera said. “What he’s seen from me in the gym is not the same thing that he’s going to see on fight night. He is far from a fight night fighter. He folds under pressure or runs. He is a good fighter, but he’s not at my level. I won’t let him go the distance like Isaac Cruz did. I'm going to give him the beating of his lifetime.”
Romero lost a competitive 12-round decision to Cruz in March on Showtime.
“Rivera and I have the same promoter and I personally requested for Sampson Lewkowicz to let me fight him when I saw he had no opponent,” Romero said. “I am willing to step in because I know I can beat him. We have trained at the same gym, but never sparred. His style is perfect for my style. This is going to be another victory for me to add to my collection.”
Galahad defense set
Kid Galahad will make the first defense of his IBF featherweight title against former junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez on Nov. 13 (DAZN) at the Utilita Arena in Galahad’s hometown of Sheffield, England, Matchroom Boxing announced on Wednesday.
Galahad (28-1, 17 KOs), 31, won the vacant belt by one-sided 11th-round knockout of longtime friend and sparring partner James “Jazza” Dickens on Aug. 7 at Matchroom HQ in Brentwood, England, on a “Fight Camp” card.
“I am beyond excited for this,” Galahad said. “It will give me a great sense of pride to be making my first world title defense right here in Sheffield, the city where my boxing journey began with the (late training) legend Brendan Ingle. Brendan told me way back when I was 14 years old that if I stuck with it, I would be a world champion one day. So, this will be a special moment for me, and it will be dedicated to Brendan and Alma Ingle. To make my maiden world title defense right here in front of the incredible people of Sheffield, my family and my fans will be a very special moment.
“Kiko is a former world champion and has been in with multiple other world champions so he has a huge amount of experience. He is a very tough man and never shy’s away during a fight. You’re always going to be in for a hard night’s work with Kiko who will be pushing, pressuring and punching all night long.”
Martinez (42-10-2, 29 KOs), 35, of Spain, will be a significant underdog. He is coming off an eight-round decision win over journeyman Jayro Duran on Sept. 11 in Spain and has never worried about fight in his opponent’s hometown.
“The U.K. is like my second home. I felt robbed against Zelfa Barrett, but all the fans know who the real winner was,” Martinez said of his decision loss in England in February. “I hope that this time the judges will be fair with me. Galahad is a very good boxer and I respect him, but I am very confident in my abilities. I am excited with this opportunity. To become a world champion in a second weight division is my goal.”
The card will also include WBC women’s junior lightweight titlist Terri Harper (11-0-1, 6 KOs), 24, of England, defending her title for the third time in her first bout in a year due to a hand injury. She will face Ohio native Alycia Baumgardner (10-1, 6 KOs), 27, in the co-feature.
Teofimo Lopez interview
While Teofimo Lopez has mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. up next, the unified lightweight world champion is also focused on fighting undisputed junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor after that. Forget that proposed rematch with former lightweight champion Vassiliy Lomachenko, Lopez said.
When I was in Las Vegas for Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III, I had a chance to speak at length with Lopez about Kambosos, Taylor, Loma, others he wants to face, his feelings about Triller and the purse bid it defaulted on, and having Matchroom Boxing take over the promotion for the Kambosos fight. He had plenty to say on all of it and I wrote about it for World Boxing News. Please read that story here: https://www.worldboxingnews.net/2021/10/13/exclusive-teofimo-lopez-triller-loma/
British light heavyweights Lyndon Arthur (19-0, 13 KOs), 30, and Anthony Yarde (21-2, 20 KOs), 30, will meet in a rematch on Dec. 4 (BT Sport in the United Kingdom) at the Copper Box Arena in London, promoter Frank Warren announced. Arthur won a 12-round split decision over Yarde in December without spectators present due to the coronavirus pandemic. Each man has won their only fight since to set up the much-anticipated rematch. “This is a fight that needs an audience roaring them both on,” Warren said. “It was a decent fight last time but there was something big missing and that was the fighters being inspired by fans in the arena. I believe the fans at the Copper Box will make a huge difference and we will get something very special from Lyndon and Anthony.” The winner will be No. 1 in the WBO 175-pound rankings.
Upstart promoter Probellum continued with its string of signings, announcing it has added two-time Armenian Olympian Hovhannes Bachkov, 28, to its stable. Bachkov, a lightweight and a 2016 and 2020 Olympian, claimed a bronze medal in this past summer’s Tokyo Games. He also won gold at the 2019 European Games and 2017 European championships and bronze at the 2017 world amateur championships. Bachkov (2-0, 1 KO) turned pro last October and had his second fight in April.
Show and tell
I’ve covered a lot of fights in my day and, yes, I have saved every credential from every one of them. The third Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder heavyweight championship fight from this past Saturday night in Las Vegas was no different. For major fights, those involved with the event and media members are issued two credentials. First, there is the fight week credential, which is used for access to the media center, press conference, weigh-in, that sort of thing. But that one is not good for fight night. On fight night, everybody gets a new credential specific to them. Here are my two credentials for Fury-Wilder III, including the fight night one with my photo from about 20 years ago, when I still had brown hair.
Navarrete-Gonzalez and Berlanga-Coceres photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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