As the boxing world moves away from Tyson Fury’s incredible victory over Deontay Wilder, this weekend features a number of solid fights that include the return of some of the sport’s biggest names.
Fight Night presents the second title defense for WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete. His opponent is Joet Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOS), who in 2018 took Shakur Stevenson from a distance and in 2020 defeated former title contender Miguel Marriaga with a dominant performance.
Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) won a world junior featherweight title against Isaac Dogboe in 2018 and made five defenses before advancing to the 126-pound division. He won the then vacant featherweight title against Ruben Villa a year ago and defended it with a 12th round TKO victory over Christopher Diaz in April.
So how much of a challenge is Gonzalez for a Navarrete, who hasn’t lost a fight in over nine years?
On Saturday, super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco returns to the ring for his third fight of 2021 against Lucas de Abreu, an undefeated Orthodox fighter from Brazil. Abreu has 11 knockouts in 12 fights, but the focus is on 20-year-old Pacheco against this fighter under pressure.
Also on Saturday, former four-division champion Mikey Garcia will fight for the first time in nearly 18 months, a 10-round welterweight battle against Sandro Martin.
Garcia (40-1, 30 KOs), has only fought twice since his March 2019 decision loss to Errol Spence Jr. He also has a decision win over Jessie Vargas in February 2020. Martin (38-2 , 13 KOs), made his first appearance in the United States after fighting most of his career in his native Spain.
Our panel of Timothy Bradley Jr., Mike Coppinger, Mike Rothstein and Ben Baby takes a look at these and other must-see fights this weekend.
What is the ceiling of Emanuel Navarrete as a high level fighter?
Emanuel Navarrete shows his prowess by knocking down Christopher Diaz several times en route to his 29th knockout victory.
Copper : Navarrete is a talented fighter, a boxer who generates enormous leverage on his punches with exceptional height for a 126 pounds at 5ft 7in.
The 26-year-old throws shots from awkward angles and with bad intentions as well. Above all, perhaps, Navarrete unloads with incredible volume even after going from 122 pounds. In his featherweight debut – a title fight – he threw nearly 700 punches. His first defense was a success, a knockout of Christopher Diaz. He threw 744 punches in that fight.
It also continues to improve. There are still some promising challenges for Navarrete at 126 pounds, namely Gary Russell Jr., but the real tests will come at 130 pounds, and that’s where we’ll find out how good he is. Even in his third weight class, he will still be one of the biggest fighters in the division. What about the winner of next week’s title fight between Jamel Herring and Shakur Stevenson? Or fights with Miguel Berchelt and Chris Colbert?
Navarrete might be crude, but the mix of volume punching, awkward angles and size has turned out too far so far.
Is Joet Gonzalez a legitimate challenger for the title of Emanuel Navarrete?
Babe: No. The intrigue surrounding Joet Gonzalez since he stepped down with Golden Boy Promotions in 2019 has produced nothing substantial. Gonzalez’s best win to date has been a knockout win over Manuel Avila in 2019.
But other than that, Gonzalez has yet to show he’s worthy of a real title shot. He was easily beaten by Shakur Stevenson in 2019, his only title fight. Gonzalez also hasn’t earned any wins over any of ESPN’s currently Top 10 featherweights despite constant fights in the division since 2015. It doesn’t make sense for Navarrete too, as he has few opponents from foreground in his ledger. There are several other names that will boost his profile and recognition around boxing. Maybe Mauricio Lara, who made a name for himself with a big win over Josh Warrington in February. Lara and Navarrete are both from Mexico.
Navarrete is an exciting fighter who should face tougher opposition. At 26 and as the current champion he has moved past the stage of his career where he is expected to face Joet Gonzalez.
What should we see of the undefeated Diego Pacheco to name him the 168-pound challenger?
Bradley: He’s still young at 20 and you don’t need to move him quickly. I can see his talent. He has what I call the most important punch in boxing: the jab. He’s got a really good jab and if he keeps using it, with his reach to prepare for his attack, he’s going to beat a lot of guys. He needs to keep working on his jab, get more variety, throw it to the head and body, just make it look different and change where he throws it.
His pace is very good – it flows, it is fluid – but he needs to change his pace, to throw different combinations. He’s got a nice uppercut, a straight uppercut that he throws inside. He needs more strength. Because he is 20 years old and even 6ft 4in, he has not yet reached his peak of strength.
I really want to see how he does when he’s fighting someone smart on the inside. I would like to see him control the center of the ring against Lucas de Abreu, and I want to see his body work. But if he controls the ring and works the body, throw his right hand towards the liver, just using a different way of landing on the body – if he can figure out how to throw more punches and put them in. his arsenal – that will certainly step up his game. Sometimes he throws that right hand too close, but if he throws it from far, from the outside, it will have more effect and he won’t be there for the counter .
For this fight against a puncher like de Abreu, I want to see him use his defense, take his time, make no mistakes and hit the body and take some steam from the opponent’s punches.
What is Mikey Garcia really doing? Why is he fighting Sandor Martinez?
Rothstein: Honestly, I am not sure. Garcia hasn’t fought since a unanimous decision victory over Jessie Vargas last February and now he’s fighting an opponent to Sandor Martin who has an impressive record (38-2, 13 KOs) but whose competition has been less than stellar. Maybe it’s kind of a warm-up fight for him since he’s had such a long layoff? This is one of the few reasons it would make sense.
When you look at his opponents in his last five fights, dating back to 2017, he’s a reasonably talented roster – Adrien Broner, Sergey Lipinets, Robert Easter Jr., Errol Spence Jr. and Vargas. He only lost one of those fights (Spence), but all came by decision. If Garcia sees this as a tune-up and then becomes more active, it makes sense as a fight.
Otherwise, it almost feels like a no-win situation for Garcia. Win and you are completely expected; lose and there is a lot to wonder about. Martin, meanwhile, could give his career a boost. Strange fight.
Should Mairis Briedis follow Usyk’s path and switch to heavyweight?
Copper : This is undoubtedly the plan of Brieidis, who said months ago on social media that he would move to heavyweights soon. Instead, in this fight he will remain busy against a hopeless opponent, Artur Mann. In reality, it doesn’t matter who he faces at cruiserweight; there are no convincing matches.
As a cruiserweight champion – and someone who gave Usyk by far the toughest challenge of his career – Briedis would be immediately installed as a heavyweight player.
He had a few fights in the unlimited weight class, including a brutal fifth round knockout of Manuel Charr in 2015. For that fight, he weighed just under 214 pounds. At 6ft 1, it would be grossly undersized for the division.
But in a majority decision loss to Usyk in 2018, Briedis proved he could have the skills to overcome shortcomings in other areas. There is nothing more to accomplish at cruiserweight. At the very least, it’s time for the 36-year-old to earn some heavy handbags.