Boxing fans who were hoping for a classic all-Mexican war when Emanuel Navarrete and Oscar Valdez clashed on Saturday night were not disappointed. Both men battled through injuries while trading big shots for all 12 rounds until Navarrete escaped with a unanimous decision to retain his WBO junior lightweight title in one of the best fights of 2023.
Navarrete controlled the early rounds mostly off the strength of his jab, using that shot to open up power shots. Valdez remained the tighter boxer, looking to pick his spots to unload with his trademark left hook. That set for a tense game of chess with Navarrete looking to do work while avoiding those dangerous bombs from Valdez.
In Round 4, Valdez started to turn things his way, throwing pinpoint power shots and landing cleanly to Navarrete’s chin. As the tide seemed to be turning in Valdez’s direction, Navarrete responded by upping his overall output in the seventh round, throwing and landing more punches than he had in any round prior to wrestle control of the fight back.
The fight continued to play out as a battle of Navarrete’s volume punching from length and Valdez picking better spots to land fewer, but arguably more meaningful punches. In Round 9, it appeared Navarrete injured his right hand, shaking out the hand and mostly throwing punches with just his lead left.
Navarrete bit down on his mouthpiece and started to fire his injured right hand in Round 10 but it was the left that was more meaningful as Valdez’s right eye began to swell nearly shut. Still, Valdez fired back with big combinations as the fight turned into the expected war heading into the championship rounds.
With the fight seemingly up for grabs heading into the final two rounds, Navarrete dug deep and delivered a constant barrage of punches, taking advantage of Valdez’s eye, which was entirely closed by the final bell, and pulling away to grab scorecards in the action-packed fight.
After the conclusion of 12 rounds, the official scorecards read 116-112, 118-110, 119-109, all for Navarrete. The scorecards did not tell the story of how exciting and competitive the fight was round after round.
Navarrete got the win in front of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, two of his idols who delivered one of the most incredible trilogies in boxing history. After the fight, Navarrete suggested he was open to continuing the rivalry with Valdez.
“I’m going to leave it in the hand of the fans,” Navarrete said. “If they want to see this fight again, I know they’re going to get online and push for it.”
Valdez gave credit to Navarrete after the fight while apologizing to the largely pro-Valdez crowd.
“He’s just a warrior,” Valdez said. “I tried my best. … You’re a warrior, my congratulations. You are a champion. … I’m sorry to disappoint everyone who came here to support me. I feel terrible. I hope you were not disappointed and I hope you enjoyed the fight.”