Emanuel Navarrete retains the title against Oscar Valdez in an entertaining one-sided slugfest

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GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 12: Oscar Valdez (L) and Emanuel Navarrete (R) exchange punches during their WBO lightweight championship fight at Desert Diamond Arena on August 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Oscar Valdez (L) and Emanuel Navarrete went to war for 12 laps Saturday in Glendale, Arizona. Navarrete won by unanimous decision. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Emanuel Navarrete didn’t have the high profile his Saturday opponent Oscar Valdez enjoyed going into their WBO featherweight title match at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

He walked away with the belt, the biggest win of his career and a hugely boosted reputation after taking out Valdez, the former champion, by unanimous decision. The judges scored it 116-112, 118-110 and 119-109 for Navarrete, who won the fight by shedding the weight.

Not even an injured, potentially broken hand could slow him down. He landed a total of 72 power punches in the first seven rounds according to CompuBox, but connected on 104 in the last five.

He hurt Valdez and gave him respect early in the fight. Valdez was missed several times in the first rounds and dug himself a hole.

The fight was billed as the “Battle of Mexico,” and Top Rank brought in legendary Hall of Famers Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera to take part in the festivities. Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the greatest Mexican-born boxer of all time, worked on a Spanish-language TV broadcast.

The fight did not come close to matching the brilliance of the three Barrera-Morales fights, which remain among the greatest of this century. However, it was an exciting and dramatic move as each man poured his heart out and had to overcome a serious problem at some point.

“I want to thank everyone who was here watching because you were able to see the next chapter in the great championships of Mexico,” Navarrete said in the ring afterward. “I want to thank Oscar too, because he came out and gave his whole heart. We did everything we promised.”

Valdez’s right eye was a grotesque mess by the middle of the fight and it was so bad in the last three rounds that one wondered why the referee didn’t think to stop the bout. Valdez was making Navarrete miss, but true to his style, Navarrete was nothing more than a workhorse.

In a fight at this level, it’s often the fighter with the higher percentage of contact that wins, and Valdez connected on 32 percent of his punches compared to just 21 percent for Navarrete. But Navarrete threw an incredible 1,038 pounds, 602 more than Valdez. He connected on 216 shots, 76 more than Valdez.

He did it mostly by injection, sometimes out of plan and often according to need. His jab tore Valdez apart and he kept on the range to allow Navarrete to land a right hand. When the right side was so sore that Navarrete went round without using it, it was the injection that carried him.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 12: Oscar Valdez has his eyes damaged during his WBO lightweight championship fight against Emanuel Navarrete, at Desert Diamond Arena on August 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Oscar Valdez reacts after losing to Emanuel Navarrete on Saturday for the WBO super featherweight title. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Valdez just couldn’t put enough together to make the finals mean something. Navarrete was just working it out throughout. He was quick when needed and steady for most of the rest of the bout and it was a recipe for a strong win.

Valdez knew he didn’t win and confronted Navarrete in the middle of the ring as Navarrete was being interviewed by ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna.

“He’s a hero,” Valdez lamented in perhaps the best tribute he could pay to his winner. “I tried. I tried my best. We tried our best and that’s all I can say. I wasn’t going to give up, but I’m sorry to disappoint the everyone who came here to support me.”

Navarrete is 38-1 and has won 34 fights in a row. While both sides tossed around the idea of ​​a rematch, there is no need for it. It was a one-sided bout and Valdez needs to get back in the gym and work on some of the issues that bothered him.

It’s on and up for Navarrete, who is just one of nine Mexican-born boxers to hold major world titles in three or more weight classes. The lightweight division is stacked, but if Navarrete decides to move up, it will add another host fighter and a legitimate threat there.

Whatever he chooses to do, however, he will have a much bigger reputation in his next bout given how he handled a very good opponent in Valdez.

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