Emanuel Navarrete vs. Eduardo Baez, our August 20th consolation prize after “Vaquero’s” negotiations with Shakur Stevenson fell through, has found a home at San Diego’s Pechanga Arena.
Navarrete (35-1, 29 KO) will be ending a 10-month layoff, his longest since 2014. He was last seen turning aside a determined Joet Gonzalez in October to cap off his least-active calendar year since, again, 2014. Considering that sheer activity was the thing that made his lack of top-flight competition tolerable, I’m not sure I like where this is going.
To be fair, Baez (21-2-2, 7 KO) isn’t a bad opponent by any stretch of the imagination, even if all his good work came at 122. He scored consecutive upsets over Narek Abgaryan and Abimael Ortiz to set up a Showtime clash with Ra’eese Aleem, who outworked “El Gemelo” to hand him his first loss since a 2017 decision defeat to Mauricio Lara.
He’s just not, you know, Shakur Stevenson, Mauricio Lara, or the other 126 lb titlists.
“I am very excited to finally be back in the ring. The inactivity of these last eight months has served to give my body the rest it needed and to reflect on many things,” Navarrete said. “Now I’m coming back stronger physically and mentally. I’m going to show that I’m ready to fight any champion at 126 or 130 lbs. There will be a lot of ‘Vaquero’ for a long time.”
You’d think that Top Rank would put the potentially action-packed clash of unbeaten prospects between Omar Aguilar (24-0, 23 KO) and Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13 KO) on the main card, but no. Instead, we get Giovani Santillan (29-0, 16 KO) squaring off against TBA and a rematch between Nico Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KO) and Reyes Sanchez (7-2, 3 KO), who fought to a majority decision last December.
For those curious, Sanchez dropped another decision two fights later.
“I didn’t know when I’d be back fighting in San Diego, so when I heard the news, I was ecstatic. This shows we can continue having big cards in San Diego, and I can’t wait for all my fans to pack Pechanga Arena,” Santillan said. “I want a world title opportunity soon. That’s the dream. I’d love to fight for a world title, and defend my belt, in my hometown.”
“Despite winning our last fight, I feel like I must set the record straight with Reyes Sanchez. He’s the only opponent I haven’t knocked out, and I don’t see the rematch going the distance,” Ali Walsh said. “Kay Koroma has already added so much to my arsenal, and I can’t wait to perform.”
Aside from Aguilar-Delgado, the undercard includes Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2, 14 KO) and the return of Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11 KO).