Emanuel Navarrete is pursuing a leap into rarefied air by fighting for his fourth belt before age 30 on May 18 in San Diego, against Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk, atop an ESPN card.

Navarrete (38-1-1, 31 KOs), based in Tijuana, Mexico, is a punching dynamo who last year outworked rugged former two-division champion Oscar Valdez, claiming a unanimous decision in August, before knocking down Brazil’s Robson Conceicao twice to survive a belt-retaining draw in November.

Navarrete admits with pride that his defense is rooted in his punching activity, believing no foe can match his punching onslaught.

And that mentality reminds Navarrete’s Hall of Fame American promoter Bob Arum of another ex-multi-division champion who some might argue is the greatest lightweight ever.

Roberto Duran,” Arum said. “[Navarrete’s] the same way: His best defense is his offense.”

Duran, known as “Hands of Stone,” reigned as lightweight champion from 1972 until 1978, and later moved up to welterweight to famously deal Sugar Ray Leonard his first loss in 1980.  

In a Friday interview with Boxing Scene, Arum confirmed ESPN reports that Navarrete will indeed make his lightweight debut by fighting for the vacant WBO belt.

“He’ll have no problem making the weight, and we’re excited to see him in a place that supports boxing,” said Arum, also noting San Diego’s proximity to Navarrete’s border-town home.

Arum said Navarrete sought the move up in weight to be near better competition, with unbeaten three-division-champion Shakur Stevenson also under contract with Top Rank and unbeaten Gervonta Davis wearing the WBA belt.

Stevenson, preparing for a July 6 WBC lightweight title defense in his home state of New Jersey, told Boxing Scene this week that he longs for a string of big fights following his summer homecoming.

Navarrete would certainly qualify.

Unbeaten welterweight Giovanni Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) of San Diego is scheduled for the May 18 co-main event, and Top Rank will likely place other prospects on the card following expected victories in coming weeks.