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Staff picks: Navarrete vs Horta and Ancajas vs Gonzalez

Emanuel Navarrete and Jerwin Ancajas return for title defenses on Saturday in Mexico.

Zanfer Box

Tomorrow night on ESPN+ (9:00 pm ET), super bantamweight world titleholder Emanuel Navarrete and super flyweight world titleholder Jerwin Ancajas return in Puebla, Mexico, for a pair of title defenses to close out their years in the ring.

Bad Left Hook will have live coverage tomorrow night, and now our staffers take a look at the two title bouts, picking the winners.

Jerwin Ancajas vs Miguel Gonzalez

Scott Christ

We saw Ancajas look not particularly great against Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago in back-to-back fights in 2018, so Top Rank did something clever and signed up Ryuichi Funai for Ancajas’ last fight, which went up against a Canelo card so not that many people really watched it, but those who did saw the Filipino look exciting again, largely because for Funai, defense is optional.

Gonzalez, a Chilean fighter, had a big chance in March where he hosted Andrew Moloney at home in a WBA eliminator, but Moloney kicked his ass. Moloney’s a good fighter, mind you, but Gonzalez wasn’t in his league. And in his other fight against a credible foe, he was widely outpointed by Paul Butler back in 2013. Gonzalez is an also-ran, a local hero who has shown no signs of being able to cut it at a higher level. Ancajas is flawed, but he’s generally chewed up guys like this in his career. Ancajas TKO-6

Wil Esco

Jerwin Ancajas is a pretty good fighter who doesn’t fight other good fighters. That’s really all I have to say about him at the moment. Ancajas has held the IBF title since 2016 and should have been unifying with other titleholders by now, but alas, he’s taking on an unknown Chilean fighter who will be fighting outside of his native country for the first time in six years and has never been in against stiff competition. This fight reeks of ‘stay busy’ and I think Ancajas demonstrates why this weekend. Ancajas TKO-5

Patrick L. Stumberg

After a couple of lackluster performances against Jonas Sultan and Alejandro Santiago, Ancajas reminded us in his recent defense against Ryuichi Funai that he can be damn entertaining and downright brutal when he wants to be. Even if that was a byproduct of favorable matchmaking, it bodes very ill for Gonzalez, who was thoroughly dominated by Andrew Moloney in his lone fight of note.

The only skill Gonzalez showed against Moloney was okay infighting, a skill he’ll struggle to utilize against the rangier and more technically savvy Ancajas. He’s in for a boatload of punishment, both from Ancajas’ straight left and from his check hook should Gonzalez decide to damn the torpedoes and try to muscle his way into the pocket. This lasts as long as Ancajas wants it to. Ancajas TKO-4

Lewis Watson

Ancajas seems to be treading water in the 115-pound division, clinging onto his IBF strap without looking likely to face anyone particularly credible. He’s been champion for over three years yet hasn’t really broken out. Gonzalez looks to be just another notch on his belt. Gonzalez got stopped by Andrew Moloney in March and a similar outcome is expected this weekend. Ancajas TKO-3

And the staff winner is...


Jerwin Ancajas (4-0)!

Emanuel Navarrete vs Francisco Horta

Scott Christ

Navarrete’s torrid schedule over the last 12 months has been some effective marketing. “Now here’s a real throwback!” everyone bellows out, because that’s one of the key points of having him fight a bunch of no-hope challengers three times between Aug. 17 and Dec. 7. But Navarrete is a good, exciting fighter, who at 24 is probably still a little rough around the edges. Keeping him busy and learning in relatively low-pressure fights is likely just going to make him tougher once he does face someone who’s an actual threat, so it’s not just good marketing, it’s also a solid plan of attack for a young fighter who won a world title by surprise to most, and has proven it was no fluke.

Eventually, someone is going to make Navarrete look a lot more human, because that happens for everyone in time, but I don’t suspect it will be Francisco Horta, who is an eight-round club fighter type. And outside of maybe Rey Vargas, I don’t see anyone at 122 who appears to be a bad style matchup for Navarrete going forward, either — even Daniel Roman, good as he is, would not be a terrible matchup stylistically. I expect Navarrete to roll here, but there is the off chance that the schedule betrays him a bit and he could be a little sluggish. This is a lot of training and fighting in a short period of time. Navarrete TKO-9

Wil Esco

Here’s one of the easier fights for me to pick this weekend, so let’s get right to it. Emanuel Navarrete really came out of nowhere when he stomped Isaac Dogboe last December, then ran it back and beat him down even worse in their rematch. That made it clear that Navarrete wasn’t just some little-known Mexican fighter that wasn’t worth paying attention to, and Navarrete has kept busy with what will be his fourth title fight this year. That’s pretty damn rare in this era of boxing.

With that being said, this particular fight strikes me as something of a victory lap for Navarrete in 2019. Francisco Horta has fought his entire career in Mexico, so this will be no different, except for the fact that this time Horta will be facing a legitimate world-level talent. Horta’s never even taken on any fighter near Navarette’s level, and most of his opponents haven’t been good to say the least. Levels matter, and here Horta is going to experience that firsthand. Navarette TKO-6

Patrick L. Stumberg

Horta is genuinely a more interesting opponent for Navarrete than the two men “Vaquero” has brutalized since the Dogboe duology. While “Panchito” is totally unproven against top opposition, he fights well off of the back foot and puts together good combinations, both of which are quality skills to have against Navarrete’s free-flowing offense. I don’t expect the sort of nigh-instantaneous beating he’s been dishing out lately, and can even see Horta taking a round or two.

To actually pull the upset, though, Horta would need to maintain composure and consciousness for over half an hour against a relentless and remarkably destructive force, one exponentially superior to anyone he’s faced so far. I just don’t see it. Horta counters his way to some early success, but succumbs to Navarrete’s unstoppable advance in the later rounds. Navarrete TKO-8

Lewis Watson

I’m growing to really love Navarrete. The kid comes to fight and will always give you your money’s worth. His fifth title fight inside 12 months doesn’t appear to be taking its toll on the determination of the youngster, with the excitement of defending his world crown in Mexico for the first time a real incentive to put on a show.

Horta has fought just once in 2019 and doesn’t appear to hold the true power to suggest he has a “puncher’s chance”. Navarrete is well adept at walking through fire and will probably drown the challenger if he tries to drag him into deep waters. This is Horta’s first scheduled 12-rounder, contesting only one 10-rounder previously. I can’t see anything but an easy night’s work before a step up for Navarrete in 2020. Navarrete TKO-8

And the staff winner is...

Emanuel Navarrete v Francisco De Vaca Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Emanuel Navarrete (4-0)!

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