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.