The body language offered by Emanuel Navarrete before and after his most recent win suggested we would never again see him as a featherweight.
That was then, this is now—even with hopes of becoming a three-division titlist this weekend.
“I’m still undecided on what we’re going to do after this fight,” Navarrete insisted to BoxingScene.com. “Before my last fight, we decided that if I can’t get a unification at featherweight that we would look at winning a world title at 130.
“This opportunity presented itself so we are taking it but I also [stressed] that I wanted to keep my featherweight title and see what happens in this fight.”
Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs) will challenge for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title when he faces Australia’s Liam Wilson (11-1, 7KOs) atop this Friday’s ESPN show from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Despite industry discussion to the contrary, Navarrete has not yet relinquished his WBO featherweight title that he has held since an October 2020 points win over Ruben Villa and has defended three times.
There was speculation following the weigh-in for Navarrete’s eventual sixth-round knockout of Eduardo Baez last August that the fight would be his last at featherweight. The two-division titlist from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico initially missed weight and had to strip down to his birthday suit to land within the featherweight limit.
Navarrete openly expressed frustration over the inability to land unification bouts at the weight, in part motivating his decision to look one division north for his next opportunity. He was originally due to face countryman and former two-division titlist Oscar Valdez, who withdrew due to a recurring injury that hasn’t fully healed. Such a fight could still be in play later this year, should Navarrete beat Wilson and remain at junior lightweight.
A win on Friday will leave Navarrete with a ten-day window to decide at which weight he will next fight.
The fight most affected by his pending decision is the scheduled April 1 Isaac Dogboe-Robeisy Ramirez clash in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The interim WBO featherweight title is currently on the line, though it could change to full title should Navarrete win on Friday and choose to remain at 130. A loss by Navarrete could also lead to him being stripped of the WBO featherweight title, per sanctioning body by-laws covering titleholders who are granted permission to temporarily campaign at another weight.
Should Navarrete make it a one-and-done trip at junior lightweight, he will then be on the hook to face the Dogboe-Ramirez winner as his next mandatory challenger.
For now, the February 13 deadline might as well be years away.
“After this fight, we will see how I feel,” vowed Navarrete, who is a perfect 10-0 in title fights dating back to his December 2018 WBO junior featherweight title win over Dogboe. “Right now, with the hard work we’ve put in, making 130 won’t be a problem and I feel like I can still make 126. Let’s see how things go in this fight.
"God willing we get the win and become WBO [130-pound] champion, then we will decide whether to stay and defend that title or give it up and return to 126 where I am still the champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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