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Ruben Villa set for Friday return, looking to get back into world title picture

Featherweight Ruben Villa will get back in action on Friday, and aims to chase another title fight after that.

Ruben Villa is looking to get back into contention starting this week Ruben Villa is looking to get back into contention starting this week

Featherweight Ruben Villa hasn’t fought since a competitive loss to Emanuel Navarrete in a WBO title fight in Oct. 2020, but the 24-year-old southpaw will return to the ring this Friday, facing Horacio Garcia in a Thompson Boxing main event from Ontario, Calif.

While Garcia (35-5-1, 25 KO) isn’t a top contender, the 31-year-old is a veteran who has been in with some good names in his career. He dropped Carl Frampton in a 2017 fight, which Frampton won by a more competitive decision than most imagined it would be. He recently returned to action after a three-and-a-half year layoff, beating Isaac Zarate on a Thompson card in February, which was a rematch of a fight Zarate had won in 2018.

Garcia also notably went to Japan and lost to Hozumi Hasegawa in 2015, and may be the exact sort of guy Villa (18-1, 5 KO) can’t afford to have too much rust against after his own long layoff.

“My opponent is a solid guy, he is talented, but I see myself as a world champion, and just made small mistakes in my last fight that cost me a world title,” Villa said from training camp. “The experience I’ve gained makes me an even more dangerous fighter, and you will see that in this fight.”

The return will be a step down from an ESPN main event — even one held in the Top Rank “Bubble” in Las Vegas — but a familiar setting for Villa at the DoubleTree, where Thompson have run consistent cards for years.

“I started my career on these cards, and to return is a good feeling as I know the venue and the fight week stuff very well,” Villa said. “It’s like visiting an old friend if an old friend could be a building. The fans always bring good energy there and I can’t wait to bring an exciting fight to everyone in attendance.”

It’s not, of course, where Villa hopes to keep his career, as he believes he has the goods to be a top guy, and with good reason. While Navarrete did deserve the win in their bout and Villa got dropped twice, the fight was scored 114-112 on two cards, meaning it was six rounds apiece for those judges, and the third was only 7-5 (115-111) for Navarrete. Villa really was the stiffest test Navarrete has had in a world title fight at either 122 or 126 lbs.

“I want to get back into the world title picture. I see the division as fairly empty outside of the fighter I lost to and we had a close fight,” he said. “I spent my whole amateur career fighting the best fighters in the world, and after this fight I want to face the best fighters possible. I have a very good record, and now I am going for legacy with the goal to bring a world title fight to Salinas, Calif.”

For those in the area, Thompson’s “Path to Glory” show has tickets priced at $50, $75, and $100, with doors opening at 6:30 pm PT on April 15 and the first fight starting at 8 pm PT. Tickets can be purchased by calling 714-935-0900.