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Emanuel Navarrete faces Uriel Lopez on June 20 in Mexico City

Emanuel Navarrete

By Chris Williams: WBO super bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarrete will be facing 25-year-old journeyman Uriel Lopez (13-13-1, 6 KOs) in a 10-round non-title bout on June 20 in Mexico City, Mexico. The fight will be televised on Azteca in Mexico, according to ESPN.

There’s no word about it being shown on ESPN. It would be surprising if Navarrete vs. Lopez were televised on ESPN because it’s such a dreadful mismatch on paper.

For this to be a headliner on an ESPN card, a lot of fans would potentially be turned off. Lopez (13-13) has no business fighting a world champion like Navarrete, even in a non-title fight.

This fight has little chance of making it to the second round. Unless Navarrete takes it easy on Lopez, this match is going to end almost immediately.  If this fight were televised in the U.S, the fans would be turned off. They would know that was just a showcase fight designed to make Navarrete look like a world-beater.

“The goal was to start out with really good, competitive fights, with names that people are familiar with, who have been on ESPN shows,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said to ESPN.com.

Emanuel Navarrete

Navarrete facing a journeyman

With Lopez being a journeyman, there’s no chance for Navarrete for him to defend his WBO strap against him.

The fans want to see Navarrete face quality opposition like Rey Vargas, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Luis Nery, Brandon Figueroa, and Ronny Rios. Instead, Navarrete has been fighting bodies in mismatches, and it’s not helping his popularity.

Top Rank should be putting Navarrete against guys that would help take his career to the next level, but he’s matched in a similar way as fellow Top Rank fighter welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

If not for the pandemic, Navarrete would have likely fought already, as he’s been fighting frequently against pretty much anyone that his promoters could drag into the ring.

Navarrete, 25, has been incredibly busy defending his WBO 122-pound title since beating Isaac Dogboe to capture the belt in 2018. He’s defended the title five times. The first defense was against Dogboe in a rematch, but all the fights since then have been against weak opposition.

Since winning the WBO strap two years ago, Navarrete has defended the title against these fighters:

  • Jeo Santisima – TKO 12
  • Fransico Horta – KO 4
  • Juan Miguel Elorde – TKO 4
  • Francisco De Vaca – TKO 12
  • Isaac Dogboe – TKO 12

With the soft matchmaking and the easy paydays, it’s understandable why Navarrete isn’t in a rush to fight anyone good at 122. He’s in no danger of losing his WBO super bantamweight with him facing this level of opposition each time. But the downside of Navarrete’s poor opposition is it’s not going to help him increase his popularity in the U.S or Mexico, and it makes for bad television.

A lot of talent at featherweight for Navarrete to fight

It would be a good idea for Navarrete to move up to featherweight to broaden his horizons. If Navarrete moves up to 126, he would be in a position to face these fighters:

  • Gary Russell, Jr.
  • Shakur Stevenson
  • Josh Warrington
  • Kid Galahad
  • Jessie Magdaleno
  • Claudio Marrero
  • Can Xu
  • Michael Conlan
  • Carl Frampton

Some of these fighters could give Navarrete a serious run for his money, and possibly beat him. In the case of Russell, he might even be the favorite to beat Navarrete.

It comes down to what Navarrete’s goal is for his career. If he’s just looking to milk his WBO 122-lb title for as long as possible for the easy paydays, then he might be resistant to the idea of moving up to 126 to face better opposition.

At some point, ESPN needs to think about letting Top Rank know that they’d like to see Navarrete face guys that at least have a fighting shot at beating him. The fighters that Navarrete has been defending against look like they’re half-stunned just walking into the ring.

Top Rank has other fights that are in the pipeline in June, and it’s mixed bag mismatches and semi-quality affairs.

Emanuel Navarrete

June fights:

  • Shakur Stevenson vs. Felix Caraballo on June 9
  • Mikaela Mayer battles Helen Joseph.
  • Jessie Magdaleno fights Yenifel Vicente on June 11
  • Adam Lopez vs. Luis Coria
  • Joshua Greer vs. Mike Plania on June 16
  • Giovanni Santillan vs. Antonio DeMarco
  • Jose Pedraza vs. Mikkel LesPierre – June 18
  • Gabe Flores Jr. vs. Josec Ruiz
  • Andrew Moloney vs. Joshua Franco on June 23
  • Christopher Diaz vs. Jason Sanchez


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