LAST weekend the entire trilogy between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales was shown on Top Rank’s YouTube channel.
What a way to pass a few hours on a Sunday evening. It was a timely reminder that when two world-class Mexican fighters go to work the results can often be thrilling. Having fought one another at super-bantamweight and featherweight their third instalment took place at super-featherweight. And this Saturday night at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona another 130lbs all-Mexican clash involving Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete, 37-1 (31), and Oscar Valdez, 31-1 (23), could produce another fight of the year contender in the division. Three months ago in Wales, Joe Cordina and Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov produced the type of fight which would send Saturday’s fans home feeling they got value for their money if they watched something similar.
If we apply the old adage ‘You’re only as good as your last fight’ then Navarrete could be in trouble. In February, the 28-year-old was dropped in round four by Australia’s Liam Wilson, not someone you automatically associate as being heavy-handed. Navarette survived to end matters in the ninth and walked out of the same venue he fights at on Saturday with the WBC super-featherweight strap. It was a performance that showed the both the all-action and vulnerable qualities that make the long-limbed Mexican a fighter worth watching.
Valdez, one suspects, would not let Navarrete off the hook if he is presented with a similar opportunity to the one Wilson created for himself. The 32-year-old is a precise and powerful technician who has only been found wanting once; when up against the sublime Shakur Stevenson in April 2022.
A 13-month period out of the ring ended when Valdez comfortably defeated Adam Lopez for a second time, having beaten him in 2019.
Navarette and Valdez look on paper like two dance partners that will click from the first step to produce something that brings drama and knockdowns in a fight could last long in the memory. Navarette, in fact, shares similarities with Mexico City gunslinger Jhonny Gonzalez who always looked like one punch away from victory or defeat.
For Valdez this fight is an opportunity to reestablish himself as a force to be reckoned with at his new weight. Seven months before the defeat to Stevenson he produced a flat performance in his win over Robson Conceicao. Events in Tucson were shrouded in controversy after Valdez failed a drugs test beforehand for the banned substance phentermine, a weight-loss drug. He was eventually cleared to fight the Brazilian by a gaming commission, but a sour taste remained. The win over Adam Lopez in May was expected but it feels like an awfully long time since the outstanding knockout victory against Miguel Berchelt in February 2021, Valdez’s finest showing.
Against Navarrete there should be plenty of moments for Valdez to demonstrate his crisp body-punching while his tight defence could prove key early on. The ring discipline of Navarrete will therefore be vital to his chances. Violent exchanges seem certain, and to prevail, Navarrete must keep calm under pressure. Should he leave himself too open, or get too carried away, Valdez has the instincts to end matters.
Overall, we feel, Valdez is the better fighter and the more rounded. It could ultimately come down to who makes fewer mistakes, and, because of that, Valdez can secure a late stoppage win in a typically entertaining Mexican war.
On the Top Rank undercard in Glendale there are outings for some rising stars who are trying to battle through a queue of world-class prospects under the watchful eye of Bob Arum
The heavy-handed Raymond “Danger” Muratalla, 18-0 (15), continues his ascent up the lightweight division with a 10-round bout against unbeaten Diego Torres Nunez, 17-0 (16). Muratalla has been dropped twice in his career so far, making him another edge of the seat fighter. In March, for example, he was down in the opening round against Humberto Galindo but recovered to knock out the 23-year-old in the ninth.
Muratalla had it his own way in May stopping former Shakur Stevenson opponent Jeremia Nakathila in the second session.
Saturday’s opponent is fond of early nights as well. Torres and Muratalla won’t have to wait long to find one another. Torres is a come forward-fighter but he’s taking a step up here. As such, the pick is Muratalla to get the job done following a feisty affair. But do not leave your seat, this one could explode at any moment.
At super-lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, 17-0 (13), will be expected to move to 18 not out against Jair Valtierra, 16-2 (8).
THE VERDICT: The main event could be an absolute belter and is, by some distance, the best matchup of the week.