One of the hardest punching smaller weight fighters in the lower weight classes is ready to be back in a main event Saturday night in San Diego, CA. Emanuel Navarrete returns for the first time in 2022 to defend his WBO featherweight title against veteran Eduardo Baez.
And, at Thursday’s final press conference for the Top Rank Boxing/ESPN headliner, Navarrete made clear that despite promoter and purse money private squabbles over the last year or so, he’s got it resolved and is ready to be active again,
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) August 15, 2022
Navarrete is ready to defend his WBO featherweight world title against a fellow countryman who is no stranger to toe-to-toe action. Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) will take on upset-minded Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs) in the 12-round main event this Saturday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
“I feel really good. We had a great preparation. We’re going to be making a really good return. It is a bit hard to make the weight because of the time that we were away from the ring. But aside from that, there’s nothing that worries me about being able to make this defense of my championship in excellent fashion,” Navarrete said.
“I think Baez is coming with a strong desire to win. He is very well conditioned, and that can make for a great fight. I’ve also prepared very well. We both want this world championship. I have it, but he wants to snatch it away from me. That can make for a great fight from the start. So, I think this fight will lend itself to being a great matchup. We hope that Baez comes out very strong, that we both last the 12 rounds, and that we fight at a very high level.”
“I’m very happy to be returning after the layoff. We hope that my career is going on a good path so that I can keep growing in this new era with Top Rank.”
Hear us talking Navarrete’s return more with Dan Rafael joining me on the “Big Fight Weekend Preview” podcast by clicking play below,
Navarrete, winner of 30 consecutive bouts, is a two-weight world champion entering his 10th world title bout. A native of San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, he emerged on the world scene with a pair of title fight victories over Isaac Dogboe, which started his run as one of boxing’s most active, hard punching world champions. Following five junior featherweight title defenses in nine months, Navarrete moved up to featherweight and won the WBO title in October 2020 with a decision over Ruben Villa. He defended his title twice in 2021, including last October’s 12-round barnburner over Joet Gonzalez at the same Pechanga Arena, where he’ll fight Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Baez knows what’s at stake. “It’s an important fight for a world title. We’re coming double prepared. We are so happy to be fighting against a great champion like ‘El Vaquero.’ We thank him for the opportunity. We’ve come very prepared to snatch the title from him. I’ve seen it already. It’s very nice. He better not get careless because I’m going to snatch it away.”
In the co-feature, San Diego native Giovani “Gallo de Oro” Santillan (29-0, 16 KOs) looks to shine in front of a hometown crown in a 10-round welterweight battle against unbeaten contender Julio Luna (19-0-2, 10 KOs). Undefeated middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KOs), grandson of Muhammad Ali, returns in a four-round rematch versus Reyes Sanchez (7-2, 3 KOs). Ali Walsh is fighting in the same venue where his grandfather got his jaw broken by Ken Norton in a 1973 split decision loss.
Navarrete-Baez, Santillan-Luna and Ali Walsh-Sanchez 2 will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.