For six rounds, it looked like Emanuel Navarrete was just too strong and even too good for Ruben Villa, but Villa hung around and made a fight of things. In the end, two knockdowns made the difference, and Navarrete became a two-division titleholder, winning the vacant WBO featherweight title.
Navarrete (32-1, 27 KO) dropped Villa (18-1, 5 KO) in the first round on a left uppercut, and in the fourth round when he caught Villa open for a big left hand. Navarrete stayed in control in the fifth round, but Villa started turning it up a bit in the sixth, which led to a very interesting second half of the fight.
In that second half, Villa moved better, boxed better, landed some good clean shots, and started to adjust to the awkward, often reckless style of Navarrete, who found it harder and harder to land clean shots. Maybe Navarrete went on cruise control too early and couldn’t get out of it, but the scores wound up a lot closer than the first half of the fight would have predicted, and a lot closer than what the ESPN commentary team were calling, as it seemed they kind of halfway checked out of the fight in the fifth round and stuck to the early narrative that Villa was out-classed.
The scores, in fact, wound up being 114-112, 114-112, and 115-111 for Navarrete, and all were fair. They also mean that the knockdowns really won the fight, as this would have been a majority draw without at least one knockdown. That said, BLH also scored the fight 115-111 for Navarrete, and he deserved the win here, because the knockdowns were very real and definitely do count. Here’s a look at both of them:
All said, I think we wound up seeing a really interesting fight. Navarrete, 25, can definitely fight at 126, and his long reach and awkward style can give anyone problems. He’s also tough, it seems, and isn’t afraid to mix it up. But you have to wonder if Villa didn’t leave a lot of footage for future opponents to study, and if bigger punchers than Villa might not be able to land game-changing shots on Navarrete, who is far from a defensive wizard. We saw some of the limitations of Villa in the first half of this fight, but he acquitted himself nicely in the second half, and showed us some of Navarrete’s limitations, too.
Good fight, then. A lot to learn from this one, and wound up being a good matchup for both guys.
Janibek Alimkhanuly KO-2 Gonzalo Coria
The co-feature saw 27-year-old Kazakh middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly improve to 9-0 (5 KO) with a monster knockout of Gonzalo Coria late in the second round. Alimkhanuly had dropped Coria (16-4, 6 KO) in the first round, but blew him up with a right hook and a straight left, and Coria was flat-out at 2:59 of the second.
Alimkhanuly trains with Buddy McGirt and lives out in California now. There had been a bit of worry earlier in his pro career — which began in 2016 and he should really have fought more by now — about his power, but he’s won his last three by stoppage. Those weren’t exactly monster opponents (it’s also probably time for him to step up and face a decent middleweight) but they were all good power displays.
160 is starting to open up — Canelo is gone, GGG is getting old, you’ve got good titleholders in Charlo and Andrade who have some time left, but Alimkhanuly could find himself in a good position if he can keep winning.
- Elvis Rodriguez KO-3 Cameron Krael: Freddie Roach’s prized prospect continues his destructive run in the “Bubble,” stopping the always-tough Krael early in the third round, landing a hard right hook that put Krael down, where Krael took the 10-count kneeling. Krael (17-17-3, 4 KO) does not have the impressive record, but he’s very well known for giving prospects rounds and being a tricky guy for young fighters. This is just the second time he’s been stopped, the other coming in 2014 against Jamal James. The 24-year-old Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KO) is fast earning some buzz at 140, and he could be moving up the card sooner than later. Not into title fights, necessarily, but it’s time to step up the competition again. Krael is kind of end of the line of “prospect testers.”
- Lorenzo Simpson UD-8 Sonny Duversonne: Simpson is a 20-year-old 154/160 prospect from Baltimore, has bounced around sort of auditioning for bigger promoters the last couple years, you’ve probably seen him somewhere if you watch prelims and deep undercards. He recently signed a managerial deal with MTK Global but does not have a promotional deal with anyone. He was pretty good here, winning a clear decision on scores of 78-73, 78-73, and 79-73. He was ruled down at the end of the fifth but it was just his glove touching on what he felt was a slip. Otherwise he won this fight fairly easily. Now 9-0 (5 KO), Simpson looks like a good if not great prospect at this stage. Duversonne (11-1-2, 8 KO) takes his first loss, and at 30 this was his chance to do something, having previously only ever fought club guys in Florida and Georgia. He’s got a crazy 80-inch reach at 154, but doesn’t do a lot with it when in against a good opponent.
- Bryan Lua UD-6 Nelson Colon: Lua had just fought a few weeks ago on a Top Rank card, and that was his first fight in about two-and-a-half years, as he dealt with some wrist issues. He won this clear, 60-54 on all three cards, and looked sharp again. He’s a 22-year-old junior lightweight, now 7-0 (3 KO), and he has more power than that KO ratio suggests. Here, he didn’t get a stoppage because Colon (4-4, 3 KO) did not engage at all, just sort of stood around with his hands up and survived for 18 minutes. You do you and all, but I’ll pass on seeing Colon televised again after this, quite honestly.
- Rashiem Jefferson UD-4 Steve Garagarza: This is the second time in a month we’ve seen Jefferson, a 19-year-old Philly prospect at 122/126, on a Top Rank card. Like last time, he didn’t really impress, in all honesty, at least if you’re thinking of the future for him in terms of how high he seems to have the ability to climb. But again, he’s young and could prove that wrong. He’s got a 72-inch reach, which is great for his division(s), but the hand speed seems a little slow, and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of power, either, now 3-0 without a stoppage. But he won this clearly, 40-36 across the board. Garagarza falls to 2-3-1 (1 KO) with the loss.
- Kahshad Elliott KO-1 Akeem Jackson: The 20-year-old Elliott made his pro debut here, figures to fight at 147 when it gets serious, was a bit under 154 for this one. He’s another Split-T prospect, out of Plainfield, N.J., 5’11” with a 72-inch reach. Good domestic amateur credentials, a supposed amateur record of 117-23. Not much to see here — Jackson (1-2, 1 KO) went down twice in short order from body shots and took a 10-count on the second one, and they weren’t, like, devastating highlight reel body shots. That’s not to say they weren’t legit or didn’t hurt but they weren’t B-Hop liver shots or anything. Total pro debut time for Elliott was 75 seconds.