Former two-division world champion Emanuel Navarrete can call himself a three-division world champion after scoring a thrilling come from behind ninth round knockout of Liam Wilson on Friday night at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, AZ to win the vacant WBO Jr. Lightweight world championship. A very competitive fight from the outset, Navarrete as is his custom tried to overwhelm Wilson with high volume punching. What appeared to be setting up to be a close tactical fight suddenly changed in the fourth round when Wilson connected with a flush left hook to the jaw that sent Navarrete down hard in a corner of the ring for the first time in his career. The fighter, who had held world titles in the Jr. Featherweight and Featherweight divisions prior to this fight, appeared to drop his mouthpiece following the knockdown, which bought him crucial extra seconds to try and compose himself. Despite this, Navarrete was clearly hurt and appeared to be out on his feet at this stage of the fight, but somehow managed to pull himself together and survived the round.
As the fight progressed the two fighters continued to exchange heavy punches with the relative unknown Wilson, who was challenging for a world championship in only his thirteenth professional fight more than held his own, even as Navarrete eventually regained his composure and resumed throwing punches at a high rate. What had become almost an instant classic had a sudden conclusion in the ninth round when Navarrete connected with a flush right hook in the opening seconds that dropped Wilson. Wilson was able to get up, but had no answer for what become an all-out assault as Navarrete continued to throw punches relentlessly until the Referee Chris Flores stepped in and stopped the fight. Official time of the stoppage was 1:57 of round nine. Emanuel Navarrete advances to 37-1, with 31 Knockouts. Liam Wilson falls to 11-2, with 7 Knockouts.
Also on this card:
Undefeated Jr. Welterweight contender Arnold Barboza scored a hard-fought ten round unanimous decision over former two-division world champion Jose Pedraza. A highly competitive fight, Barboza’s quicker hands, ability to get off first, and forcing the combat proved to be the difference between the two fighters. Barboza was also able to withstand a late rally from the former world champion that saw several heated exchanges of offense between the two fighters. Official scores were: 97-93, and 96-94 (On two scorecards in favor of Barboza. Arnold Barboza advances to 28-0, with 10 Knockouts. Jose Pedraza falls to 29-5-1, with 14 Knockouts.
2020 Olympic Silver medalist Heavyweight Richard Torrez moved to 5-0 in his career with a first round knockout of late replacement James Bryant. Torrez immediately put Bryant in survival mode with heavy punches from the opening bell. A flush left uppercut from the southpaw stance put Bryant down in the latter seconds of round one. Following the end of the round, Bryant informed his corner that he had injured his ankle and the bout was stopped. Richard Torrez advances to 5-0, with 5 Knockouts. James Bryant falls to 6-3, with 4 Knockouts.
Jr. Lightweight Andres Cortes remained unbeaten in his career by scoring a ten round unanimous decision over Luis Melendez. An at times ugly fight to watch due to dirty tactics and grappling between the two fighters, Cortes outworked and out landed Melendez over the ten round bout. Cortes however, was badly cut in round six over his left eyelid as a result of an accidental clash of heads. Despite the gash over his left eye, Cortes’ corner managed to keep him in the fight and he was able to win the fight by sweeping all three official judges scorecards. Official scores were 100-90. Andres Cortes advances to 18-0, with 10 Knockouts. Luis Melendez falls to 17-3, with 13 Knockouts.
Undefeated Middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, remained unbeaten in his career by scoring a six round unanimous decision over a very “Game” Eduardo Ayala. Ayala put Ali Walsh to the test early in this fight as he found a home for his right hand. To Ali Walsh’s credit, he took the shots of Ayala well and responded in the second round by dropping him with a flush right hand to the chin that sent Ayala down and hurt. Ayala showed his mettle by continuing on and, despite taking significant punishment through the remainder of the fight at the hands of Ali Walsh, did make it to the final bell in his hometown. Official scores were: 60-53, and 59-54 (On two scorecards) in favor of Ali Walsh. Nico Ali Walsh advances to 8-0, with 5 Knockouts. Eduardo Ayala falls to 9-3-1, with 3 Knockouts.
Rising Jr. Welterweight prospect Lindolfo Delgado scored a lopsided eight round unanimous decision over veteran Clarence Booth. What had all the appearance of a workmanlike performance for Delgado, which was largely highlighted by his movement and timing of his offense, Delgado was able to nearly end the fight in the eighth and final round when he dropped Booth with a short right hand to the temple. Booth was able to get up and, despite being on unsteady legs, was able to make the final bell. Official scores were: 80-72, and 79-71 (On two scorecards) in favor of Delgado. Lindolfo Delgado advances to 17-0, with 13 Knockouts. Clarence Booth falls to 21-7, with 13 Knockouts.
Lightweight Emiliano Vargas, the son of former world champion Fernando Vargas began the evening by moving to 3-0 in his young career in scoring a four round unanimous decision over Francisco Duque. Both fighters had no issue engaging each other on the inside for the majority of the fight. This worked to Vargas’ advantage as he frequently ripped left hooks to Duque’s body and generally landed the harder shots in a fight, which was the first time Vargas had to go the distance in order to win. Official scores were: 40-36 (On all three official scorecards) in favor of Vargas. Emiliano Vargas advances to 3-0, with 2 Knockouts. Francisco Duque falls to 1-2, with 0 Knockouts.
While it was expected by some to see Emanuel Navarrete become a three-division world champion and etch his name along with many great world champions who are from Mexico that have won world titles in three weight divisions including Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Erik Morales, and Marco Antonio Barrera to name a few. What was not expected however, was to see an early candidate for Fight of the Year honors for 2023. Outside of the controversy of a potential long count in the fourth round, this fight between Navarrete and Liam Wilson, who was a replacement for former Jr. Lightweight world champion Oscar Valdez, who had to withdraw from this fight due to injury, turned out to be a classic. A great fight that simply because it turned out to be a great fight, should see a rematch.
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