Mike Coppinger reports that after five successful defenses of his WBO super bantamweight title, Mexican bruiser Emanuel Navarrete is set to vacate the belt and move to 126 pounds, where he’ll become the #1 contender per the sanctioning body’s rules. #1 Stephen Fulton will face #2 Angelo Leo for the vacant belt in Showtime Boxing’s August 1st return.
Navarrete (31-1, 27 KO) has been transparent about his difficulties with making the 122-pound limit, but had hoped for a blockbuster clash with Luis Nery, Naoya Inoue, or fellow champion Murodjon Akhmadaliev before making his move up in weight. Instead, his beatdown of Jeo Santisima will be the last of his super bantamweight run.
WBO chief Paco Valcarcel confirmed that Navarrete, like Oleksandr Usyk and Oscar Valdez before him, will receive top contender status immediately upon his move. Current champion Shakur Stevenson’s move to 130 is imminent, so Navarrete could potentially face #1 Michael Conlan for that belt.
In the meantime, his 122-pound belt will end up in good hands. Fulton (18-0, 8 KO) claimed top contender status in January with an impressive decision over hard-hitting Arnold Khegai and now faces another unbeaten up-and-comer in Leo (19-0, 9 KO), who’s coming off of solid wins over Mark John Yap and Cesar Juarez.