LAS VEGAS: Bruised, knocked to the floor, but never beaten, Robson Conceicao survived 12 rounds with Emanuel Navarrete to leave the ring with a majority draw Thursday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
"I'm happy to come away with the belt," Navarrete said post-fight, having retained his WBO world super featherweight title. "He's next level and that's what made it so hard."
Mere months after obliterating Oscar Valdez in Glendale, Arizona, Navarrete returned to the ring against an opponent who had been hoping to use a win over Navarrete as a springboard to recapture momentum after losing to both Valdez and Shakur Stevenson in recent years.
He opened the fight with the harder punches, particularly a right hand looped over the top in wild fashion, continued to trouble Navarrete in the second, and caught him with a crisp and short-range left hook in the third.
He'd throw a one-two, step around Navarrete, and had an uncanny ability throughout the first quarter of the fight to counter much of what the Mexican was throwing at him.
Navarrete would miss with uppercuts after lunging too much and boxed so awkwardly that he seemed like a far cry from the version of himself that romped past Valdez; indicating, perhaps, that either the Valdez fight took too much out of him, or he did not take sufficient time off to recover before returning to a training camp and a fight three months later.
Both theories were set on fire in the fourth when Navarrete dazed Conceicao with an uppercut, before flooring him with three punches in the follow-up that were all against the Brazilian's previous flow of traffic.
VAQUERO PUTS HIM DOWN 💥 pic.twitter.com/4HqWiQVeL0— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 17, 2023
Conceicao recovered enough between rounds to thump Navarrete with a hard right hand early in the fifth, before both fighters exchanged slugs to rouse the already lively crowd.
But any recovery was short-lived as Navarrete fought with an aggression in the sixth-round that was founded only in a desire to see his opponent on the deck once again — this time for good.
That knockdown came in the seventh when Navarrete drilled a right hand into the side of Conceicao's ribs, forcing him to crumple to the ground as if in slow-motion, before summoning the power to rise to his feet and box on once more.
BAAAAAAANG!— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 17, 2023
The champ gets Conceicao again 🏆 pic.twitter.com/6JCoUIZfZs
Though Conceicao recovered from the first knockdown, a similar recovery seemed lacking after the second, as Navarrete had beaten the will and some of the skill out of the 35-year-old.
It looked like he was boxing at a slow pace, the pop in his punches had deteriorated, and this allowed Navarrete to close the gap more frequently than before, knowing that what was going to be thrown his way would lack the zap from the early going.
Though he was no longer throwing with bad intentions, Conceicao showed off his technical ability, still, with double jabs and punches in bunches, to tally certain rounds later in the fight in his favor.
Really, it was Navarrete's bout to lose. And he had pretty much lost every round he hadn't knocked Conceicao down in, as he wasn't throwing enough shots to attract the attention of the ringside judges.
Though one of those judges scored the fight 114-112 to Navarrete, they were overruled by the other two judges who saw it as a 113-113 draw.
"If it's up to me, Conceicao definitely deserves [a rematch]," Navarrete said.
After the way Navarrete fought Thursday, he might have pushed a possible bout with Thursday's headliner, Shakur Stevenson, into the future, if he first has to resolve his majority draw with Conceicao.
"I know how he fights and he knows how I fight," Navarrete said of Conceicao. "It’d be a great fight."