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War, Emanuel Navarrete: Boxing’s throwback young champion

The WBO super-bantamweight champion’s recent résumé of defences is a refreshing throwback to yesteryear.

Juan Elorde v Emanuel Navarrete Photo by David Becker/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

War, Baby: The Glamour of Violence is a must-read for all boxing fans.

Kevin Mitchell’s book published in 2003 cites the story of how Nigel Benn and Gerald McClennan’s paths crossed for the WBC super middleweight title in 1995 while attempting to unravel and understand the glamour of violence we associate with boxing.

Now, while there is no direct correlation between that infamous fight inside the London Arena and Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete, the WBO super bantamweight champion’s recent activity has forced me to reminisce on fights of yesteryear.

When the 24-year-old nicknamed “Vaquero” locks horns with Francisco Horta on Dec. 7, it will mark his fifth world title fight within 12 months — a refreshing level of activity for a world champion not often seen at this level in the 21st century.

“I am very excited to close the year by defending my world title in my beloved Mexico,” Navarrete said. “This will be another dream that will be fulfilled, and I assure you another exciting fight. I always go for the knockout. I think it is best to win by knockout, and on Dec. 7, the fans in Puebla will see another action-packed fight from ‘El Vaquero.’”

“Expect a war; we are going for the championship of the world,” Navarrete continued, alluding to his return to Mexico for the first time since becoming champion.

Having upset the highly-rated Issac Dogboe via unanimous decision in December last year, Navarrete punctuated his superiority over “Royal Storm” by stopping the British–Ghanaian in the final round of their rematch in May this year.

“It really surprised me that he took so many hard shots, but at the same time, he continued to throw strong punches,” Navarrete said after his second fight with Dogboe. With a come-forward style fighting fire with fire throughout his career to date, Navarrete has developed a reputation of unrelenting toughness inside the ring.

“To all the fighters at 122 pounds, I tell them that if they want my title, then they can come and try and take it,” the Mexican went on to say following the breakout fight of his career. It’s hard to argue with him having racked up successful defences against the previously unbeaten Francisco De Vaca and Juan Miguel Elorde in the four months that followed.

With a reported record of 108-7 in the amateur game, Navarrete has continued with the high-activity levels usually associated outside the paid ranks. Turning over a month after his 17th birthday, a record of 29-1 has been amassed since, with future unifications at 122 pounds a target for the Top Rank fighter.

Arum has reportedly shown interest in an all-Mexican unification against Golden Boy’s Rey Vargas; platform negotiations the obvious sticking point as we look towards 2020.

Two Mexican world champions in their prime slugging it out? I can’t see many arguments against that from a fan’s perspective.

The sole loss on his record came under questionable circumstances. Dropping a decision loss in a four-rounder against Daniel Argueta in the Cinturón de Oro XVIII final of 2012, Navarrete was still named the winner of the tournament for novice pros due to Argueta no-showing for the weigh-in.

“Emanuel Navarrete is one of Mexico’s great young champions, and he’s only getting started,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum following the announcement of Francisco Horta as his next opponent. “At 24 years of age, he is wise beyond his years and hungry to challenge himself against the very best. He’ll have defended his belt four times in 2019, and 2020 is shaping up to be another spectacular year for ‘Vaquero.’”

Whether Top Rank is looking to squeeze all of Navarrete’s value out before he gets beaten is a question worth raising. A fighter than enjoys going to war is always going to be susceptible to dropping a loss when the margins are so fine in the lower weights. Perhaps, the controversial loss on his record will act as a blessing in disguise, unshackled from the pressure to protect an 0.

Emanuel Navarrete — along with Tevin Farmer under Matchroom Boxing USA — stands alone in the current crop of active champions. With an exciting style warranting investment, let’s hope it’s a career of “War, Navarrete” rather than “blink, and you’ll miss it.”

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