2/3 ESPN: Emanuel Navarrete vs Liam Wilson (vacant WBO 130 Title) / Arnold Barboza Jr vs Jose Pedraza

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Mexican star Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete and Australian contender Liam Wilson will fight for the vacant WBO junior lightweight world title Friday, Feb. 3, at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Navarrete, the reigning WBO featherweight world champion, hopes to become the 10th Mexican-born boxer to win world titles in three weight divisions.

Junior welterweight contenders collide in the 10-round co-feature as Arnold Barboza Jr. hopes to earn a career-best victory against Jose “Sniper” Pedraza, a former two-weight world champion from Cidra, Puerto Rico.

Navarrete-Wilson, Pedraza-Barboza, and the return of U.S. Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. in a six-round heavyweight special feature will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST.

Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs), from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, won the WBO junior featherweight crown from Isaac Dogboe in December 2018 and made five defenses of that title in a nine-month span. He out-hustled Ruben Villa to win the vacant WBO featherweight strap in October 2020 and has since defended that title three times. Navarrete is one of the sport’s premier offensive fighters, an aggressor who wings punches from all angles. In his October 2021 title defense over Joet Gonzalez, he threw 979 punches over 12 rounds, including 104 in the 12th round. He returned to the ring in August, rebounding from a slow start to knock out countryman Eduardo Baez with a body shot in the sixth round. The Baez victory marked Navarrete’s 31st consecutive victory dating back to 2012.

"This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown,” Navarrete said. “Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete 'Vaquero' Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”

Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs), from Caboolture, Australia, is the WBO No. 3 junior contender. He has never fought away from his home country, but he will take the nearly 8,000-mile journey hoping to spring a major upset. Wilson stepped up to fight Navarrete after Oscar Valdez suffered a training injury and enters the fight with momentum on his side. After a stunning fifth-round TKO loss to Filipino contender Joe Noynay in July 2021, Wilson gained revenge in March with a second-round knockout courtesy of his “left hook from hell.” He kept the momentum going in June with a 10-round unanimous decision over former world title challenger Matias Rueda.

Wilson said, “He's a champion, a warrior, and a household name around the world, but now it's my time. I'm coming to upset the parade. I've waited my entire life for this moment, and I won't let it slip because it means more to me. I swore an oath to my father on his deathbed that I would one day win a world title for him. I'm looking forward to fulfilling this promise on February 3rd."

Barboza (27-0, 10 KOs), from South El Monte, California, is ranked in the top 10 by the WBC and WBO. The longtime contender turned pro in 2013 and has steadily climbed up the rankings with victories over Mike Alvarado, Alex Saucedo, and Antonio Moran. In July, Barboza returned from an 11-month layoff to snatch the ‘0’ from Danielito Zorrilla in a crowd-pleasing 10-round main event.

Barboza said, “It’s a big card, and there will be a lot of eyes on us. Pedraza is a formidable opponent. He’s my toughest to date and has only lost to the very best. I'm looking forward to the challenge. At this point, anyone I face is standing in the way of my goal, which is to win a world title. I am going to make a big statement on February 3rd.”

Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) ruled the junior lightweight and lightweight divisions before moving up to the junior welterweight ranks in 2019. He is 3-2-1 as a junior welterweight, having shared the ring with many of the division’s most notable names. In March, he pushed former unified champion Jose Ramirez 12 rounds before dropping a tight unanimous decision. Less than six months later, he battled former lightweight champion Richard Commey to a draw in a fight most observers believe Pedraza did enough to edge out. Pedraza had a Madison Square Garden main event against Teofimo Lopez scheduled for December 10th, but Pedraza withdrew with a non-COVID viral infection. The 33-year-old understands a victory over Barboza moves him closer to a world title opportunity.

Pedraza said, "I have recovered completely from the illness that obligated me to pull out of my fight with Teofimo Lopez. Right now, I feel 100 percent, and I know Arnold Barboza Jr. is one of the best fighters in the division. I'm sure this will be a great fight where I will reaffirm my level as an elite fighter at 140 pounds.”

Torrez (4-0, 4 KOs), from Tulare, California, captured an Olympic silver medal in Tokyo and turned pro under the Top Rank banner in March. A 6’2, 230-pound southpaw, Torrez has never been extended past the third round in his young career. In October, he shined at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, thrilling the New York City fans with a third-round stoppage over Ahmed Hefny.

Undercard bouts — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ — include many of Top Rank’s burgeoning young talents.

Las Vegas product Andres “Savage” Cortes (18-0, 10 KOs) takes on Puerto Rican knockout puncher Luis Melendez (17-2, 13 KOs) in a crossroads junior lightweight tilt scheduled for 10 rounds. Cortes, a former U.S. amateur standout, notched a near-shutout over Abraham Montoya in his last outing.

Middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (7-0, 5 KOs), grandson of “The Greatest,” looks to make it 8-0 against Phoenix-based spoiler Eduardo Ayala (9-2-1, 3 KOs) in a six-rounder. This is the 2023 debut for Ali Walsh, who went 4-0 with three knockouts in 2022.

Lightweight sensation Emiliano Fernando Vargas (2-0, 2 KOs), son of former junior middleweight world champion Fernando Vargas, returns in a four-rounder against an opponent to be named. Vargas made his Top Rank debut in November and knocked out Julio Martinez in the second round with a highlight-reel left hook.

Sacramento native Xavier Martinez (18-1, 12 KOs) seeks his second straight ‘W’ in a 10-rounder at junior lightweight against an opponent to be named.

Junior welterweight Lindolfo Delgado (16-0, 13 KOs), a 2016 Mexican Olympian, steps up against Clarence Booth (21-6, 13 KOs) in an eight-rounder. In August, Delgado authored a career-best victory over then-unbeaten prospect Omar Aguilar. The eight-round shootout ranked among the year’s best action fights.​
 

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Wilson suprised me in his last outing, and especially in his rematch against Noynay.

Noynay came in something crazy like 8 pounds over. They still went ahead with it and he really put the beats on Noynay, was impressive. Has cojones.
 

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its a shame valdez was injured shortly after it was announced...unless im missing something navarrete should win this easy

barboza though needs to make a statement and stop pedraza...pedraza is fading

looking forward to watching delgado and young vargas on this card
 

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Arum Expects Navarrete-Wilson Winner To Defend WBO 130-Pound Crown Versus Valdez​

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BY KEITH IDEC
Published Wed Feb 01, 2023, 07:23 AM EST
Oscar Valdez will watch from a ringside seat Friday night as Emanuel Navarrete and Liam Wilson fight for the WBO junior lightweight title Valdez once owned.
Mexico’s Valdez was supposed to face Navarrete, his countryman, for that unclaimed championship in a 12-round main event ESPN will televise from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Wilson replaced Valdez in mid-December because Valdez suffered an undisclosed injury while training.
Australia’s Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs) was the WBO’s leading available contender to step in for Valdez. Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs) is consistently listed as a 20-1 favorite to beat Wilson, but promoter Bob Arum informed BoxingScene.com that his promotional company’s plan is to match Valdez against whoever wins later this year.
Arum’s Top Rank Inc., which promotes Navarrete and Valdez, has a contractual option on Wilson’s contract to protect itself in the event Wilson pulls off an upset.
“A hundred percent. Not even a question. That’s the plan,” Arum said. “Whoever wins, there’s an understanding that they’ll fight Valdez.”
It is possible, though, that Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) could take a tune-up bout before fighting for the WBO junior lightweight title he lost to Shakur Stevenson last April 30. Valdez could use some rounds because he hasn’t fought since Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) out-classed him in their 12-round, 130-pound title unification fight nine months ago at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The 32-year-old Valdez was tentatively scheduled to return to the ring November 12 at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, but he suffered an injury, which also wasn’t disclosed, in September and couldn’t compete that night. The former WBO featherweight champion later agreed to fight Navarrete, but the 2012 Mexican Olympian was forced to withdraw from that bout, too.
“It happens,” Arum said. “He’s a really dedicated athlete. He doesn’t carouse around and so forth. But sometimes your body betrays you, and that’s been the case with Oscar. We’ll have to see. He’s a great talent. He’ll get healed and we’ll give him his shot.”
The 91-year-old Arum admitted that Navarrete would be a very tough opponent, but he is confident Valdez can regain his championship form in the 130-pound division.
“There’s no shame in losing to Shakur,” Arum said. “How many fighters out there are going to beat Shakur? He was in the fight, he tried hard, but Shakur’s a master. Shakur is something special.”
Stevenson lost his WBC and WBO 130-pound championships at the scale because he came in overweight for his 12-round, unanimous-decision victory over Brazil’s Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) on September 23 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Mexico’s Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) and O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KOs), of Orange, Texas, will fight for the vacant WBC super featherweight title Stevenson gave up eight days after Navarrete faces Wilson, on February 11 at Alamodome in San Antonio (Showtime).
Navarrete-Wilson will headline a three-bout broadcast, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on ESPN.
In the 10-round co-feature, undefeated junior welterweight contender Arnold Barboza Jr. (27-0, 10 KOs), of South El Monte, California, will oppose Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs), a former IBF junior lightweight and ex-WBO lightweight champion. Heavyweight prospect Richard Torrez Jr. (4-0, 4 KOs), a 2021 Olympic silver medalist from Tulare, California, also will box Pittsburgh’s James Bryant (6-2, 4 KOs) in a televised six-rounder.
 

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Navarrete Makes Weight, Wilson Well Under Limit For WBO 130-Pound Title Fight

BY JAKE DONOVAN
Published Thu Feb 02, 2023, 03:23 PM EST
Emanuel Navarrete insisted prior to fight week that he is not yet done with the featherweight division.

That said, the 28-year-old Mexican looked comfortable at Thursday’s weigh-in ahead of his bid to become a three-division titlist. Navarrete was 129.2 pounds for his scheduled twelve-round fight with Australia’s Liam Wilson, who checked in at a career-light 126.3 pounds for his U.S. debut.

The two will meet for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title this Friday, headlining an ESPN tripleheader beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs) looked far more replenished than the previous time he had to make weight for a fight. The two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titlist needed two tries to get within the featherweight limit for his August 20 title defense versus countryman Eduardo Baez. Navarrete looked equally sluggish through five rounds before he flipped the switch and closed the show with a one-punch, sixth-round knockout to defend the WBO 126-pound crown for the third time and run his record to a perfect 10-0 in title fights.

Wilson (11-1, 7KOs) enters his first career title fight, which also marks his first pro bout outside of Australia. The 26-year-old junior lightweight avenged his lone career defeat two fights ago, scoring a second-round knockout of Joe Naynoy as part of his current two-fight win streak. He was due to face England’s Archie Sharp in a previously scheduled January 28 Showtime event in Las Vegas before he was tabbed to replace an injured Oscar Valdez (30-1, 22KOs) in Friday’s main event.

The co-feature pits unbeaten junior welterweight contender Arnold Barboza Jr. (27-0, 10KOs) versus former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza (29-4-1, 14KOs) in a scheduled ten-round affair.

Los Angeles’ Barboza was 139.2 pounds for his first fight since a ten-round, unanimous decision victory over Danielto Zorrilla in their battle of unbeaten contenders last July 15 in Temecula, California.

Pedraza weighed 138.7 pounds for a fight that comes less than two months after a missed golden opportunity. The former junior lightweight and lightweight titlist from Cidra, Puerto Rico was due to face former unified lightweight champ Teofimo Lopez last December 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. However, he fell ill and withdrew, leaving him out of the ring since a ten-round draw with Richard Commey last August 27 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Opening the telecast, heavyweights Richard Torrez Jr. (4-0, 4KOs) and James Bryant (6-2, 4KOs) collide in a scheduled six-round affair.

Torrez—a 2020 Olympic Silver medalist from Tulare, California—tipped the scales at 222.2 pounds, his lightest thus far as a pro. Pittsburgh’s Bryant was 253.4 pounds, his heaviest since returning to the ring in 2019 after a nine-year absence.

Below are the weights for the rest of the undercard, which airs on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Andres Cortes (18-0, 10KOs), Las Vegas, 131.2 pounds vs. Luis Melendez (17-2, 13KOs), Bayamon, Puerto Rico, 130.6 pounds—10 rounds, junior lightweight

Nico Ali Walsh (7-0, 5KOs), Las Vegas via Chicago, 159.8 pounds vs. Eduardo Ayala (9-2-1, 3KOs), Phoenix, 160.9 pounds—6 rounds, middleweight

Lindolfo Delgado (16-0, 13KOs), Monterrey, Mexico, 142.1 pounds vs. Clarence Booth (21-6, 13KOs), Saint Petersburg, Florida, 142.4 pounds—8 rounds, junior welterweight

Emiliano Vargas (2-0, 2KOs), Las Vegas via Oxnard, California, 133.4 pounds vs. Francisco Duque (1-1, 0KOs), Baytown, Texas, 136.5 pounds—4 rounds, lightweight
 
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