Emanuel Navarrete retained his WBO featherweight title with a 12th round stoppage of an outstandingly brave Christopher Diaz tonight in Kissimmee, Fla., with the fight ending just 11 seconds before the scheduled distance.
Navarrete (33-1, 28 KO) scored a knockdown in the fourth round, two more in the eighth, and another in the 12th before the Diaz corner finally stopped the fight, with their man having given everything he could and truly leaving it all in the ring.
Diaz (26-3, 16 KO) was also docked a point in the seventh round for punching at Navarrete’s kidneys, so he was impossibly down on the cards by the later rounds. But the Puerto Rican fighter never gave up on it, never let Navarrete take his heart, and it was a war, even if one-sided.
Navarrete, 26, was dealing with some level of knee injury here — they didn’t disclose anything, but he hobbled a hair now and then, and he didn’t have it wrapped for funsies. But while Diaz, also 26, really tried to make him move and keep him out of the range the Mexican titleholder wanted, it was the awkward rhythms of Navarrete that doomed Diaz.
Navarrete landed his signature uppercuts repeatedly, doing real damage, and Diaz only seemed able to really bother Navarrete when he was able to get to the body, which wasn’t often enough. Diaz was out-gunned, but fought downright heroically, especially in the 12th round. He’s not a huge puncher, but he let every single thing he had in his arsenal go looking for the miracle comeback.
That led to another knockdown, with Navarrete battering Diaz against the ropes. Referee Samuel Burgos was going to let it continue, but Diaz’s corner rightly stopped the fight there.
Navarrete and Diaz certainly did the famed Mexico vs Puerto Rico rivalry proud with this one, showing tons of heart, grit, and desire, with a lot of action.
“We put on a worthy performance. I knew he was tough, I knew he was strong, and I knew he could hit hard, but he surpassed all my expectations,” Navarrete said through Bernardo Osuna’s translation. “He brought out the best in me. I’ve got a lot of respect for ‘Pitufo’ Diaz.”
Navarrete went further discussing his respect for Diaz as an opponent.
“I was really impressed by ‘Pitufo,’ because every time I hurt him, every time I knocked him down, he came back stronger. He was a beast in there. He kept coming at me, he kept getting better even though I kept hurting him. As the fight progressed, you’d expect him to get weaker. I just couldn’t understand it. I’ve got the utmost respect for ‘Pitufo’ Diaz and what he did tonight.”
Navarrete said he’d now take a rest, admitting this fight took “a lot out of” him, and hopes to get unification at featherweight. If not, he says he’s open to fighting at 130.
“Leo Santa Cruz still holds a belt, I’d like to fight him. Gary Russell Jr is another name in this weight class. I hope they’ll step up and fight me. In the end, if those options aren’t available to me, I can go to 130. I think I’ve earned the right to call for big fights.”