There is no man in the 126-pound division right now better than Mexico’s Emanuel ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete. That includes Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Díaz, who will fight for the WBO featherweight world title from Navarrete on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN Deportes / ESPN / ESPN +) in another Mexico vs. Puerto Rico on the ring.
No one is going to beat Navarrete in 12 rounds when he’s on his feet, and that includes the other featherweight champions. The only way Navarrete is beaten by someone in this division right now is if someone catches him cold and knocks him out, that’s the only way.
The power of the blow, its size, has everything deciphered. It looks nice? Of course not. But he’s a smart boxer in his prime to make a name for himself, and he’s also the busiest champion in boxing right now. There’s a lot to like, especially since its high-volume, forward-thrusting style is what entertains fans.
However, that doesn’t mean we can rule out Diaz entirely for this fight. Navarrete showed some vulnerabilities against Rubén Villa in October. He knocked Villa down twice and it looked like he had that fight under control, but Villa showed that with a strong technical focus Navarrete can be stopped. That’s what Díaz will have to do: fight from the outside, get down to the body early and be able to make him pay when he fails, because Navarrete is going to throw a lot.
It will not be very easy for Díaz, but that does not mean that it will be so for Navarrete. Díaz has a tremendous heart. He will come to fight, and when the time comes, if things don’t go well, he will fight with everything he has. But Navarrete has all of that too, he brings a tremendous amount of heart to the ring in every fight, sheer determination.
Ultimately, I think this fight could easily end up being a war and a great way to start a great fight streak in the spring.
SEE: Smurf Díaz exposes his formula to beat Navarrete
28: Back-to-back wins for Navarrete since suffering the only loss of his career in 2012.
1: Navarrete is making the first defense of his WBO featherweight title. He won the belt by unanimous decision against Rubén Villa in October.
5: Number of WBO junior featherweight title defenses Navarrete made before moving up in weight.
82%: Navarrete’s KO percentage (28 KOs in 34 fights). He has won 14 of his last 16 fights through stoppage.
72.5, 23.7 and 18.7: Navarrete’s average for punches thrown, punches landed, and power punches landed per round, according to CompuBox. The featherweight division averages are 59.1, 16.7 and 12.7, respectively.
2: Second championship fight for Diaz. He lost to Masayuki Ito for the WBO junior lightweight title in July 2018.
34.3%: Percentage of power shots landed by Diaz according to CompuBox. His opponents land 37.7%.
According to William Hil’s Caesars Sportsbook, Navarrete (-1000) is a favorite over Diaz (+650).
I have to go with the biggest and strongest fighter who has definite physical advantages. For a full analysis and prediction for Navarrete-Díaz, click here.
What’s it like training Edgar Berlanga, who has 16 first-round knockouts in 16 fights?
“There is no overtime in boxing.”
That’s an axiom that Andre Rozier instills in the boxers under his charge, from world champions to young people just learning the sport. The Brooklyn-based coach wants his fighters to do the work inside the ring, smartly and efficiently, and get out of there. Go into all-out war with an opponent, he tells them, and your additional reward is nothing more than unnecessarily sustained damage.
“I work with my guys to be killers in the ring,” Rozier said. “When you get someone in trouble, it’s time to eliminate him.”
No fighter in Rozier’s stable, or perhaps any coach’s stable, embraces that philosophy quite like Edgar Berlanga. The 23-year-old super middleweight of Puerto Rican blood has fought 16 professional bouts and won them all, scoring first-round knockouts each time.
Read the full story of Jeff Wagenheim here
Edgar Berlanga: The king of the KO in the first round
Edgar Berlanga, the 23-year-old from Brooklyn, has 16 career wins, all by stoppage in the first round. Check out Berlanga’s highlights as he looks to improve to 17-0 against Demond Nicholson.
Will Berlanga extend his streak against Demond Nicholson?
I think we have more questions than answers from a guy like Berlanga. We know that its power is real. He showed it 16 times with knockouts in the first round. I’d love to see him go more rounds, and I think what it will take is for him to continue to take steps in the face of better competition, and this is a good opportunity for that, potentially, with Demond Nicholson.
Nicholson is quite experienced. It has some hitting power. I remember watching him fight Jesse Hart, he spent seven rounds with Hart, who can really hit. He comes to fight. Nicholson enters this fight with five straight wins. I mean, limited competition in those five wins, with three KOs, but he’s not going into this fight already broken or after a loss or going into the fight without thinking that he can win.
The problem with a lot of guys who step into the ring with Berlanga is that, due to the hype surrounding him, they enter the fight already mentally affected, before even setting foot in the ring. So meeting this guy and knowing what he’s like and knowing he’s pretty tough mentally, I think it’s going to be a different kind of challenge.
However, it’s hard for me not to predict that this fight will last a round or two. Berlanga, I think it is special. We haven’t seen much, with him never getting past the first round, but if I were a gambling man and had to bet some money on a fighter based on his future potential that I think could be the next big star, I wouldn’t mind. put money on a guy like Berlanga.
He has the kind of devastating hitting power we haven’t seen in years, maybe since Mike Tyson. In his last fight, against Ulises Sierra, that guy was supposed to last him and go to the end. He sparred against Canelo Alvarez and several other top fighters, but Berlanga was still able to eliminate him before the bell rang for the first round.
Knowing Nicholson’s style, he tends to hedge directly against guys for periods of time, a little longer for my liking. And that’s a recipe for disaster against a guy like Berlanga, who just needs you to stay still for a fraction of a second, in order to land that punch and hurt yourself. And at that moment it is fried. It doesn’t go the distance, and I think Berlanga will find a way to finish it soon, again. It does not go beyond the first round.
The complete billboard
• Championship fight: Emanuel Navarrete vs. Christopher Diaz, 12 rounds, for Navarrete’s WBO featherweight title
• Edgar Berlanga vs. Demond Nicholson, 8 rounds, super middleweight
• Josué Vargas vs. Willie Shaw, 10 rounds, junior welter
• Joseph Adorno vs. Jamaine Ortiz, 8 rounds, ligero
• Orlando González vs. Juan Antonio Lopez, 8 rounds, feather
• Xander Zayas vs. Demarcus Layton, 6 rounds, welter
• Jeremy Adorno vs. Ramiro Martínez, 4 rounds, junior featherweight
• Jaycob Goomez vs. Mobley Villegas, 4 rounds, junior ligero