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Results Recap: Emmanuel Navarrete finishes off Christopher Diaz

Image: Results Recap: Emmanuel Navarrete finishes off Christopher Diaz

By: George Goddiess – Emmanuel Navarrete closed the show with eleven seconds on the clock to secure the first defense of his WBO Featherweight Championship from the Silver Spur Arena in Kissimmee, Florida. The twenty-six year-old champion from Mexico defended the title he won back in October against Ruben Villa with a dominant performance. In front of a sold out pro Diaz crowd, Navarrete dropped his challenger four times with Diaz going down in the closing stages of the fight. Diaz’s corner signaled for the officials to stop the fight after their fighter rose from the final knockdown. The fight was well out of reach on the scorecards but Diaz fought bravely. Navarrete advanced to 33-1 (28 KO’s) and 8-0 in title fights having won his first championship at super bantamweight back in 2018. Diaz fell to 26-3 (16 KO’s) and 0-2 in title fights while being stopped for the first time in his career.

While Navarrete does not have the most conventional style he is massive for the weight class and executes effectively. Diaz came out early attempting to box the taller Navarrete at range despite an eight inch reach disadvantage. In the first round Diaz countered over a lazy jab from Navarrete with a hard right hand. Diaz used his compact punching to beat Navarrete to the punch in the second round. He again scored over top of a left hand from the champion and then attacked the body once he found his way inside. Diaz sent Navarrete backwards with a left hook to close the second round and things looked positive for the challenger up until that point. In the third round the champion began to work in his signature punches as he scored a lunging left hook from the outside. Later on in the round he employed his lead left uppercut and opened up his offense in this round. Diaz went down for the first time in the fourth round.

Prior to the knockdown Diaz was boxing effectively on the outside and scoring shots. He scored a right cross early in the round and stayed at range before scoring again with the same hand. Diaz fended off the response from Navarrete and scored a left hook to the body before tying up the champion to avoid a reprisal. Navarrete is a dangerous puncher because his punches come at such odd angles and his style is unconventional and difficult to time. He also has holes in his defense which allow his opponents to score, gain confidence and lose sight of what is coming the other way. Just when it appeared that Diaz was beginning to anticipate the punches of Navarrete and score effectively he was on the canvas. A lead left uppercut sent down and Diaz popped up quickly before going back down to a knee to regroup. With little time remaining Diaz answered with a left hook to the body before Navarrete chopped a right hand to the head before the bell.

Diaz fought a competitive fifth round amid the momentum shift as he still attempted to counter from the outside. Navarrete began working with his left hook in this round and tried finishing an early combination with the same uppercut but missed. Diaz attempted to counter the left hand of Navarrete like he had earlier in the fight but this time it was anticipated and rolled. Diaz went back after the body before Navarrete doubled his hooks to the head and the body. The sixth round started off with both men making use of their jabs to try and set up their punches and search for new openings. Diaz doubled up his left hook to the head and body and Navarrete switched southpaw to create new angles for his punches to land. The fight started to change in this round as Navarrete started to give ground and Diaz came on the attack. He started to focus on the body more in this round but was warned for holding and hitting and also for low blows and referee Samuel Burgos received a few boo’s from the crowd. This was a strong round for Diaz who carried it on two of the official scorecards.

Diaz had a point taken away in the seventh round for hitting Navarrete in the back. It was not a hard shot but he had been warned earlier in the fight to stop. Navarrete switched between stances during the round and scored a 1-2 to the head and then dug in a left hook to the body at the end of the round. Diaz opened up the eighth round with a right hand and left hook to the head and the two exchanged in spots through the first minute of the round. Navarrete attacked the body with a right hand and threw a four punch combination to blunt the return blows from Diaz. Diaz got aggressive and opened up coming forward and paid as he was struck by a left uppercut. Diaz fell to his butt and got to a knee as blood began to run underneath his left eye. Moments later Diaz hit the canvas a second time in the round after Navarrete doubled his left hand to elicit a reaction, he paused to study Diaz, and struck at the vulnerable opening.

Diaz rose to his feet with ten seconds remaining and bravely swung a left hook before the end of the round. Navarrete was beginning to pull away in the fight and was starting to exploit openings on offense out of either stance and from the front foot and the back foot. Diaz had scored effectively to this point but never appeared to seriously hurt Navarrete and tried to box on the outside and dig in on the inside. Neither approach brought much success and it became apparent that Navarrete was on the verge of grinding Diaz down before the end of the fight.

Despite dropping his opponent twice in the previous round, Navarrete came out measuring Diaz. Diaz took this reprieve as an opportunity to throw a left hook and right hand. Navarrete moved on the outside and showed the uppercut twice without throwing it. Navarrete went back to the southpaw stance and scored the left uppercut as the rear hand and doubled up on more lefts before falling to the canvas as a slip. The champion looked to take off the tenth round and Diaz got some work in as he scored with his left hook to the head and then to the body. Despite this good showing from Diaz it was not enough to shift the momentum as even his best punches had no effect on Navarrete. In the eleventh round Navarrete landed a flush uppercut to the nose of Diaz which sent blood pouring out of his nose. The challenger wiped it with his glove and rubbed the blood off onto the back of his opponent. The twelfth round was very exciting as Diaz desperately tried to score the punch that could put a title around his waist.

Diaz scored a solid right hand to open the round and Navarrete was on the ropes. Diaz followed up to the body and Navarrete came back with a right uppercut. Diaz scored another right hand and dug in to the body as the two got in close. Navarrete answered back with two left hooks to the body as Diaz pressed on in the closing moments of the fight. A chopping right hand scored and hurt Diaz badly as he staggered to the ropes. Navarrete switched stances as he put his right foot forward and took a split second to observe the damage. Seeing Diaz’s condition he followed up with a series of punches and the challenger fell to the canvas. Diaz rose at eight but his corner signaled for the ringside officials to end the fight despite the short time remaining. Navarrete scored a dramatic finish in a thrilling final round in front of a live audience, a great night for boxing.

In the aftermath of the victory, former WBO Featherweight Champion and number one contender for the organization at super featherweight has expressed an interest in a fight with Navarrete. This is a great match with both men being young champions with very different styles. From the business side of things it also looks like a relatively easy fight to make as both fight under the Top Rank Promotions banner on ESPN and for the WBO. The only obstacle at this point is whether Navarrete is going to move up yet another weight class and Stevenson has his eyes on Jamel Herring for the WBO Super Featherweight Title and Oscar Valdez who holds the WBC Title at the same weight. Can Stevenson exploit the defensive liabilities that Navarrete has while also countering some of the looping shots? On the other hand, can Navarrete impose his will on Stevenson with his unorthodox style and overwhelming size and strength? Stevenson is fantastic at taking away his opponents’ best weapons with a shutdown defense whereas Navarrete will just walk through his opponents. Time will tell if we get this fight in 2021 but it is a great match up with other great possibilities around 126-130.

On the undercard Brooklyn, New York’s Edgar Berlanga advanced to 17-0 (16 KO’s) but saw his sixteen fight first round knockout streak come to an end. Not only did he fail to score the opening round finish he went the distance for the first time. For a fighter who had hardly gone two minutes as a pro he went twenty-four minutes to reach the final bell of an eight round contest. In the post fight interview with ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna he gave himself a C grade for failing to use his jab effectively and for not going to the body enough. Berlanga won the fight by wide scores of 79-69 twice with a wider 79-68 in a fight where he scored four knockdowns with the final one being in the closing seconds of the fight. Berlanga is obviously still a work in progress as he has only gone as far as eight rounds and has not been thoroughly tested through seventeen professional fights. While his streak has garnered him a lot of attention and fan fare it has certainly stunted his development as a fighter as he has not had to face the adversity most guys would have seen by this point.

The best parts of Berlanga’s performance: He is very patient and shows a great level of poise in the ring. He does not knock guys out by just throwing bombs and imposing his will on opponents. He generates his power through short, explosive punches that he can deliver as counter shots. He is efficient in his punch selection and does not waste punches or energy. At a certain point, Desmond Nicholson was completely out of the fight with his legs not under him and he was looking to draw Berlanga into a corner and hope to score a fight changing punch. He often moved and circled the perimeter of the ring and flicked a jab and then made up his mind to stay in one spot and goad Berlanga to open up. Later in the fight Nicholson was even talking to him and stuck his tongue out more than once. Berlanga did not fall for these games and stuck to what was working. He did not score the knockout but stuck to his fight and won without getting dragged into any unnecessary exchanges.

The areas for improvement: While I liked his patience and poise, he definitely could have made the fight easier by being busier. He often allowed Nicholson the luxury to escape danger and circle around the perimeter of the ring and just followed him around. If he had worked to cut the ring off and jabbed more frequently he would have ended this fight a lot sooner. Nicholson was very brave and dug in during the seventh round, the only round he won, and was brave in the final round to trade and get up but he was wounded throughout much of the final three rounds. His legs did not appear to be under him and any solid connect had him falling around the ring and hanging on to the ropes. A fighter in better condition down the stretch could be a problem for Berlanga who did tire a little in this fight. He practically took the entire seventh round off despite fighting at a very measured pace. He was also vulnerable to the jab and was hit with a few clean left hooks coming in.

All in all I look forward to what Berlanga does next as he is a fun fighter to watch with his power and we are still learning what his ceiling is given he has not been tested that much so far. In other boxing news, Clay Collard who went 5-1 in the boxing ring last year defeated former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis in a 3 round decision on Friday. Collard had a breakout year in his boxing career by defeating three undefeated fighters in a row but lost his final fight of 2020 and his lone boxing match of 2021. Collard has returned to the cage for Professional Fighting League and it is not clear whether he will be back in the boxing ring any time soon.

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