PHOENIX: Emanuel Navarrete and Oscar Valdez were made for one another.
Las Vegas-based promotional company Top Rank had been marketing the event all week as a coming together of two Mexican warriors who were set to live up to the legacies of their country’s great fighters from the past.
Iconic boxers Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, renowned for their blood and guts wars from the early 2000s, even attended press events this week to praise the current generation.
So there was great pressure on Navarrete and Valdez to perform — and boy, did they deliver.
From the opening bell these guys went to work with Navarrete enjoying greater success in the first round as he had greater distance management to avoid most of Valdez’s more powerful shots, while staying in the range necessary to dispatch his own.
Each punch exhilarated the 10,246 fans at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale. Body shot, woo! Combo to the head, yes! And a sneaky counter to remind one who’s boss, oh baby!
Valdez fought with intentions and intensity that would have yielded rounds against other fighters, but versus Navarrete, he struggled to close the gap enough to score the kind of damage that would not only thwart the champion but get the nod on the judges’ scorecards.
Instead, Navarrete whipped a left glove into Valdez’s midsection, threw headbound one-twos to keep Valdez from stepping too close, and could load up on left hands from all angles thrown at all targets.
Navarrete was too awkward, too canny, and too technical for Valdez through the first three rounds, earning a shutout to that point on ProBox TV’s unofficial scorecard.
Perhaps, in the fourth, he took his foot off the gas pedal enough for Valdez to fire occasional warning shots.
More often than not, Valdez was looking to land something that wasn’t there, however, in the fifth round, he landed a hook from close-range — then another which he timed as a counter — which suggested fighting inside may yield greater results than allowing Navarrete to rely on his trickery from range.
Then, in the sixth, Valdez showed signs he was turning the tide as he wobbled Navarrete with a left hook to the jaw — the clear punch of the night.
Valdez connects on his biggest shot so far 👀 pic.twitter.com/yI5uqkksIP— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) August 13, 2023
By the halfway point the momentum had shifted and it forced Navarrete to surrender his lead, or make a strategic change to nullify the adaptations Valdez had made to his game plan.
When Valdez stepped into range he kept his guard tighter, but by round eight he often lingered too long without throwing, thus allowing Navarrete to take advantage and pepper that guard with shots until one or two poked through the defense.
Valdez would telegraph a right hand so bad that Navarrete had ample time to step away from the shot and watch it hopelessly miss.
The challenger had his moments, though. In round nine, for example, he again landed a shot so devastating it clearly had an effect on a dazed Navarrete.
ANOTHER MOMENT FOR VALDEZ 🍿 pic.twitter.com/iyJNlRyJ5P— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) August 13, 2023
However, all too often, the response would be a failure to follow-up on that success and instead see Navarrete’s jab come his way again and again and again.
That reliance on the jab may have been because Navarrete hurt his right hand, relinquishing another advantage to Valdez who had gained some ground.
This was a great fight and it was not only evidenced by the damage each other had accumulated, with Valdez’s eye bruised almost shut and the shaky legs of Navarrete, but in how technical yet violent it had been from start to finish.
Navarrete earned a realistic score of 116-112 from one judge but then two wide scores of 118-110 and 119-109 did not tell the true story of Valdez’s work.
Barrera and Morales had been here all week. And that proved to be an omen as we should see these two warriors fight again and again, with Navarrete and Valdez in prime position to forge an all-time great era of their own in the modern boxing era.