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Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

Image: Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

By Kenneth Friedman: Using a body attack, Emanuel Navarrete wore down and halted Uriel Lopez in round six of a scheduled 10-round contest last Saturday night at the TV Azteca Studios in Mexico City, Mexico.

In a non-title fight held in the 126-pound division, WBO featherweight champion Navarrete (32-1, 28 KOs) used his 10-inch reach advantage to control the shorter Lopez through the first four rounds of the contest. Navarrete stayed on the outside, throwing long jabs initially.

It looked like Navarrete was purposefully fighting at a slower pace than usual so that he wouldn’t take Lopez out right away. Navarrete needed rounds due to his inactivity, and he wouldn’t have taken a barrage of condemnation from boxing fans if he knocked Lopez out in the first round.

Lopez showed a lot of heart and a good chin for him to last until the sixth, but the body shots from Navarrete were too much. Any fighter at 126 would have folded quickly from the withering firepower from Navarrete.

Image: Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

Not much ring rust for Navarrete

Going into Saturday’s contest, sports fans on social media were heaping massive disapproval on Navarrete for fighting a non-top tier fighter.  There are a lot better fighters at 126 that Navarrete could have opposed if the money was there to sign them.

Navarrete looked sharp for someone who hadn’t fought in four months. That’s not a long time for a standard fighter, but it is for Navarrete, who is one of the busiest boxers in the sport.

There aren’t any world champions that fight anywhere near as much as the workhorse Navarrete, and they wouldn’t want. It’s punishing to resist frequently, but it’s not a problem for Navarrete, thanks to his promoters at Top Rank. They’ve matched him well.

During this part of the fight, the 25-year-old Navarrete fought at a slower pace than he usually does.

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Navarrete dropped the 25-year-old Lopez (13-14-1, 6 KOs) in rounds five and six with hard body shots. In the sixth, Navarrete knocked Lopez down with a right to the solar plexus.

Although Lopez got back to his feet, the referee stopped the contest. If the fight had continued, Navarrete would have likely finished Lopez in a follow-up barrage.

Final punch stats

Navarrete connected on 190 of 571 shots for a 33% hit rate, which was impressive. For his part, the over-matched Lopez landed 49 of 252 shots for a 19% connect percentage. It’s not that Lopez wasn’t landing shots.

He hit Navarrete with quite a few clean punches, but they lacked the power to get his attention. If Lopez had the power of Luis Nery, he would have gotten Navarrete’s full attention with the punches he landed.

Overall, it was an excellent performance by Navarrete against a limited opponent in Lopez. The areas were you can fault-find in Navarrete game was how he gave up his height and arm length by going inside to trade with the shorter fighter Lopez, who won ESPN analyst described as having “T-Rex” arms.

With 10-inch reach, Navarrete could have stayed on the outside the entire fight, and picked the hapless Lopez apart without getting hit. That’s not Navarrete’s style of fighting, though. He likes to give up his height, get in close and unload with his high volume punching attack to bludgeon his opponents into submission.

Image: Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

Navarrete increased the pace in the sixth

Against Lopez, Navarrete didn’t fight like that until the sixth. That’s when machine-like Navarrete finally starting throwing nonstop punches. Once he did that, he quickly took Lopez out. Navarrete was hit a lot by shots that snapped his head. This suggests that his defense or lack thereof is going to lead to problems in the future.

Once Top Rank stops feeding Navarrete soft opposition, he could pay the price if he tries to bang out his opponents with 100+punches per round like he’s been doing his entire career.

That approach has worked for Navarrete against limited opposition like Jeo Santisima and Francisco Horta, but it might not against Jessie Magdaleno or Gary Russell Jr.

When Navarrete gets in with better fighters, he can’t afford to give up his height the way he’s been doing. Sooner or later, someone is going to nail Navarrete with a big shot in between his punches and knock him out. Another question is whether Navarrete’s power will carry to the featherweight division.

Navarrete hits hard, but guys like Magdaleno possess the same kind of power and can do a lot of different things to negate fighters that throw a lot of shots.

The body shots were too much for Lopez

The fight almost seemed like a sparring session on rounds one through four, but that changed starting in the fifth. Navarrete began to open up with a lot of body shots.

The left hooks to the body from Navarrete were hurting Lopez, as he was hitting him double and triple shots. Navarrete threw the punches with a lot of power, and Lopez, who looked kind of soft and chunky at the weight, couldn’t take the body shots.

The win for Navarrete was his sixth consecutive knockout since 2019. As one of the busiest fighters in boxing, Navarrete has been a machine in the last two years in rolling over the opposition that his promoters at Top Rank have put him in with during this time.

Many fans were critical of Navarrete’s choice of opponent, as they felt that he’s too talented to be wasting time-fighting an opponent with a 13-13 record like Lopez.

What fans don’t take into account is the pandemic situation. With crowds not allowed to attend fights, it narrows down the choices for fighters like Navarrete, who can’t get the big-names to face him for little money.

If Top Rank were willing to make a considerable offer to one of the elite level contenders at 126 like Jessie Magdaleno, Kid Galahad, or Carl Frampton, they might have gotten one of them to face Navarrete.

The money wasn’t there for Navarrete to get an opponent the fans want to see.

Image: Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

Navarrete ready to move up to 126

Navarrete was throwing nonstop punches in the sixth, and Lopez couldn’t defend against all the incoming fire from the talented Top Rank promoted fighter.

“I was coming to win by knockout. I want to unify titles, but if nobody accepts my challenge, I’ll move up to featherweight,” said Navarrete afterward.

Navarrete might as well make a move up to 126 right now rather than sit idle, waiting for the other champions at 122 to face him. It has very little chance of happening in 2020, with the pandemic still going on.

The other super-bantamweight champions, Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Rey Vargas, are going to want to fight in front of a large crowd against Navarrete. That’s not going to happen during the pandemic with live groups not allowed.

In moving up to 126, Navarrete can take on #1 ranked Michael Conlan for the WBO title once champion Shakur Stevenson vacates the belt. Stevenson has already made it known this week that he’s moving up to 130. When Stevenson officially abandons the strap, Navarrete can go after it.

Emanuel can challenge for WBO 126-lb title

The World Boxing Organization has a rule in which champions can move up in weight and are immediately allowed to fight for world titles as the mandatory. Whether that rule would apply to Navarrete is unclear. If so, then Navarrete has a clear path to fight for the WBO 126-pound title right away once Shakur vacates.

Image: Emanuel Navarrete BEATS Uriel Lopez, looking to move to 126

Ideally, Shakur (14-0, 8 KOs) would defend his WBO featherweight title against Navarrete in a big fight, but Top Rank would have to agree to that match-up.

Considering that they’re trying to turn Stevenson and Navarrete into stars, the likelihood of them battling each other at 126 is not realistic. Stevenson vs. Navarrete would be a great fight if Top Rank let them face each other, but they’re almost surely not going to make this match.

A fight between Navarrete and #4 WBO Jessie Magdaleno would be an excellent one for fans to see. Top Rank promotes Magdaleno, which makes it a natural match for them to put together in putting him in with Navarrete. However, this is another situation where the promotional company would be better off moving Navarrete and Magdaleno in different directions.

Magdaleno is ranked #1 with the WBC, and he’s in position to challenge for the 122-pound title against champion Gary Russell Jr. As long as Top Rank believes Magdaleno can beat Russell, that’s a fight that they need to make.

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