8/20 ESPN: Emanuel Navarrete vs. Eduardo Baez (WBO Featherweight Title)

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A fighting cowboy, a hometown hero, and the grandson of “The Greatest” are set for a summer night to remember in San Diego.

Mexican star Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete will defend his WBO featherweight world title in the main event against countryman Eduardo “El Gemelo” Baez on Saturday, Aug. 20 at Pechanga Arena San Diego. Navarrete also signed a new multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank that will see him fight on the ESPN family of networks in events promoted in association with Zanfer Promotions.

The 10-round welterweight co-feature will see San Diego native Giovani “Gallo de Oro” Santillan risk his unbeaten record against a soon-to-be-announced opponent.

In a four-round special feature, undefeated middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, will fight Reyes Sanchez in a rematch of their December 2021 bout that Ali Walsh edged by majority decision. Ali Walsh will fight in the historic venue that hosted one of his grandfather’s most memorable bouts. In March 1973, Ali and Ken Norton battled for 12 rounds at what was then known as San Diego Sports Arena. Ali suffered a broken jaw and lost a split decision in a major upset.

Navarrete-Baez, Santillan's welterweight battle, and Ali Walsh-Sanchez 2 will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.

Ticket information for this event that will be promoted by Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions, will be announced soon.

“San Diego is a great fight town, and this is an incredible card from top to bottom,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Emanuel Navarrete is always in tremendous action fights, and Eduardo Baez is the type of opponent who will stand in the center of the ring. Santillan is a fantastic young man who drew plenty of support from the local fans last time he fought here. Nico Ali Walsh has improved leaps and bounds since turning pro last year, and I expect him to leave no doubt against Sanchez this time."

Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs), 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 fan-friendly 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 Pechanga Arena.

"I am very excited to finally be back in the ring on August 20. The inactivity of these last eight months has served to give my body the rest it needed and to reflect on many things,” Navarrete said. “Now I'm coming back stronger physically and mentally. I'm going to show that I'm ready to fight any champion at 126 or 130 pounds. There will be a lot of ‘Vaquero’ for a long time."

Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, is the WBO No. 7 featherweight contender. He recently moved up to featherweight after a successful run at junior featherweight that included a Mexican title and wins over three undefeated prospects. In 2017, he lost a tight decision to Mauricio Lara, who entered the title picture with his 2021 knockout over Josh Warrington. Following a disputed majority decision to Ra’eese Aleem last November, Baez moved up to featherweight. In March, he edged Jose Enrique Vivas by majority decision to earn a world ranking and a shot at the 126-pound king.

Santillan (29-0, 16 KOs) is a 10-year pro who has seen his career momentum take off since linking up with noted trainer Robert Garcia in 2020. Last October, he made his Pechanga Arena debut, bringing a raucous cheering section that watched him outfight Angel Ruiz over 10 action-packed rounds. He returned in April in Costa Mesa, California, and knocked out Jeovanis Barraza in seven rounds.

“I didn’t know when I’d be back fighting in San Diego, so when I heard the news, I was ecstatic. This shows we can continue having big cards in San Diego, and I can’t wait for all my fans to pack Pechanga Arena,” Santillan said. “I want a world title opportunity soon. That’s the dream. I’d love to fight for a world title, and defend my belt, in my hometown.”

Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KOs) had no ring struggles until meeting Sanchez under the Madison Square Garden lights. After a dominant first two rounds, Sanchez rallied in the third and fourth to nearly pull even. In January, Ali Walsh got back on the knockout track with a second-round stoppage over Jeremiah Yeager. Three months later, on the Oscar Valdez-Shakur Stevenson undercard in Las Vegas, he sparked out Alejandro Ibarra in the opening round with a left-right combination. He enters the Sanchez fight with a new head trainer, Kay Koroma, who works with (among others) Stevenson, rising middleweight prospect Troy Isley, and female pound-for-pound star Mikaela Mayer. Sanchez (7-2, 3 KOs), from Topeka, Kansas, entered the first Ali Walsh fight with an unbeaten record built primarily in his home state. He is coming off a decision loss to unbeaten prospect Sharif Rahman, son of former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.

“Despite winning our last fight, I feel like I must set the record straight with Reyes Sanchez. He’s the only opponent I haven’t knocked out, and I don’t see the rematch going the distance,” Ali Walsh said. “Kay Koroma has already added so much to my arsenal, and I can’t wait to perform in front of the great San Diego fans and everyone watching on ESPN.”

Undercard action, streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+, includes an eight-round junior welterweight showdown between unbeaten Mexican standouts Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13 KOs) and Omar Aguilar (24-0, 23 KOs). Delgado represented Mexico at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Aguilar has 15 first-round knockouts on his ledger and second-round stoppages in his last three bouts.

IBF No 1. featherweight contender Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2, 14 KOs) returns in an eight-rounder, while junior lightweight contender Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11 KOs) looks to bounce back from his first career loss against Alejandro Guerrero (12-2, 9 KOs) in an eight-rounder.
 

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Emanuel Navarrere-Eduardo Baez, ESPN Undercard Weights From San Diego​

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BY JAKE DONOVAN
Published Fri Aug 19, 2022, 05:31 PM EDT



Emanuel Navarrete insists there is still work to be done at featherweight before chasing other opportunities.

The scale initially indicated otherwise, as the two-division titlist from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico was forced to strip down to his birthday suit and hold his breath to hit the mark for his third defense of the WBO featherweight. Navarrete weighed 125.8 pounds on his second attempt after coming in slightly over the limit on the first try for his clash with countryman Eduardo Baez, who weighed 125.8 on his first trip to the scale on Friday ahead of their ESPN headliner this Saturday from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California.

Navarrete (35-1, 29KOs) fought at this venue in his most recent bout, an entertaining but convincing win over Joet Gonzalez last October.

The upcoming clash with Baez will mark the 27-year-old’s longest layoff since 2014, though his featherweight reign has come at a more deliberate pace than his WBO junior featherweight title run. Navarrete was among the sport’s most active fighters during his 122-pound title stay, cramming five title defenses into a nine-month span and six overall title fights from December 2018 through February 2020.

On the other side of the pandemic came a new chapter. Navarrerte took a June 2020 stay-busy fight at featherweight before deciding to remain at the weight, giving up his title soon thereafter. A twelve-round win over Ruben Villa saw the rising star claim the vacant WBO featherweight title which is at stake on Saturday for the third time.

Mexicali's Baez (21-2-2, 7KOs) enters his first career title fight having won ten of his last eleven starts.

The 27-year-old contender is coming off a ten-round win over countryman Jose Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11KOs) on March 26, bouncing back from a hard-fought loss to top junior featherweight contender Ra’eese Aleem last November 27 in Las Vegas. Baez’s lone other defeat came more than five years ago, dropping a six-round decision to current top contender Mauricio ‘Bronco’ Lara in April 2017 when both were young prospects.

Locally based Giovani Santillan was part of the undercard that housed Navarrete’s previous title defense in this venue. The unbeaten contender from San Diego once again fights in supporting capacity to the featherweight titlist, this time as the televised co-feature as he faces Durango, Mexico’s Julio Luna in a dangerous ten-round contest between unbeaten contenders.

Santillan (29-0, 16KOs) checked in at 147.4 pounds for his third straight fight in his home region. The 30-year-old southpaw is coming off a seventh-round knockout of Jeovanis Barraza on April 9 in Costa Mesa, six months after outpointing Angel Ruiz in this arena last October.

Luna (19-0-2, 10KOs)—who is promoted by Miura Boxing—also weighed 147.4 pounds for his U.S. debut and first career fight outside of Mexico.

Opening the ESPN tripleheader, Nico Ali Walsh aims to improve on his one win to go the distance, as he faces Reyes Sanchez in a rematch. Ali Walsh (5-0, 4KOs)—who won their December 11 clash via four-round majority decision—was 157.8 pounds for the bout, Topeka’s Sanchez (7-2, 3KOs) weighed 157.2 pounds for their four-round middleweight contest.

Below are the weights for the ESPN+ preliminary undercard, which begins at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.

Austin Brooks (7-0, 2KOs), La Mesa, California, 129.4 pounds vs. Oliver Galicia (5-0-1, 3KOs), Los Angeles, 128.6 pounds—6 rounds junior lightweight

Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13KOs), Monterrey, Mexico, 142.2 pounds vs. Omar Aguilar (24-0, 23KOs), Ensenada, Mexico, 142 pounds—8 rounds, junior welterweight

Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11KOs), Sacramento, 131.6 pounds vs. Alejandro Guerrero (12-2, 9KOs), Irving, Texas, 131.8 pounds—8 rounds, junior lightweight

Miguel Contreras (11-1-1, 6KOs), Bakersfield, California, 135.4 pounds vs. Josec Ruiz (23-6-3, 16KOs), Miami via Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 135.4 pounds—8 rounds, lightweight

Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2, 14KOs), Mexicali, 127 pounds vs. Yeison Vargas (20-10, 15KOs), Orlando, Florida via Cartagena, Colombia, 125.6 pounds—8 rounds, featherweight

Antonio Mireles (4-0, 4 KOs), Des Moines, Iowa, 266 pounds vs. Kaleel Carter (2-1, 2KOs), Bellflower, California, 237 pounds—4 rounds, heavyweight
 

Derek Lee

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Navarrete should have hired a nutrionist already after he re-signed with Top Rank. Come on, bro
 
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