In a crowd-pleasing and surprising fight, Mexican champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete successfully defended his WBO featherweight title on his second visit to San Diego against a tougher than predicted Eduardo Baez of nearby Mexicali, Mexico.
With Baez ahead on two of three scorecards after five rounds, Navarrete (36-2, 30 KOs) blasted Baez (21-3-2, 7 KOs) with a vicious left hook to the liver at 1:05 of the sixth round. When Navarrete hit Baez, it was the classic delayed reaction as Baez crumbled to the canvas in pain. Just like that, Baez’s excellent effort was history.
Baez said he came to take away Navarrete’s title and was willing to walk through fire to do it. He wasn’t afraid to engage with the champion, who seemed surprised at times to see the buzzsaw coming at him, even though he said he expected a tough fight all week. It’s one thing to say it, another to feel it. “I expected a fight like this,” insisted Navarrete. “I never underestimated Baez. He hit hard, and it was a lot more complicated.”
Halfway through the fight, Baez was giving Navarrete all he could handle. Ten months away from the ring and a brutal weight cut to the 126-pound featherweight limit did Navarrete no favors. But a champion finds his groove, and Navarrete ended the dreams of the challenger.
“That’s a very Mexican punch. It comes with my blood,” said Navarrete of the winning blow. “I don’t throw a perfect left hook like you’re used to seeing, but it’s perfect for me,” adding not many people can take a shot like it. The description sums up Navarrete’s entire style. He’s awkward, and his fundamentals aren’t always in place, but it doesn't matter. Power, stamina, and accuracy carry the champion.
It was Navarrete’s third title defense at featherweight. Navarrete hinted it might be his last but said he and his team would sit down and discuss the situation later. “I’m not going to deny the fact those ten months away from the ring made it hard for me. At the end of the day, coming down and melting myself to 126 pounds was difficult.” There are plenty of worthy opponents at 130 pounds. Count us in, Vaquero.
Giovani Santillan Wins the Hard Way
Wearing brown and gold trunks in tribute to MLB's Padres, San Diego’s Giovani Santillan (29-0, 15 KOs) and Julio Luna of Mexico (19-1-2, 10 KOs) delivered more offense than the ballclub has in recent days. Santillan won his second bout at home, standing toe to toe and trading with Luna for ten hard rounds, with Santillan getting the unanimous decision. Scores read 100-90 X 2 and 96-94. We scored it 97-95 for Santillan.
With trainer Robert Garcia in Saudi Arabia, Santillan and three other RGBA fighters on the card worked with Robert Jr. and his father, Guillermo Santillan. The 30-year-old southpaw worked nonstop behind uppercut combinations and hooks in close. Luna returned fire and took the shots well, making it a fun fight to watch, if not the smartest approach for Santillan. “It was a lot tougher than I expected,” admitted Santillan. “Luna gave me a great fight, and I am just thankful for the opportunity to fight once again in my hometown.”
Santillan suffered a deep cut high above the right ear several rounds into the fight due to a headbutt, but the corner kept it from being a factor. “It was a rough fight, a lot of headbutts, but I battled through it. That was a hard ten rounds,” said Santillan.
Ali Walsh Takes Bradley’s Advice, Wins With R2 Body Shot KO
Pechanga Arena’s legacy in boxing isn’t extensive but significant. It’s where former U.S. Marine Ken Norton handed Muhammad Ali only the second loss of his career in an upset victory on March 31, 1973. Top Rank founder Bob Arum was Ali’s promoter and is still going strong at age 90 with Ali’s grandson Nico Ali Walsh.
Walsh (6-0, 5 KOs) won his rematch in style with a second-round body shot knockout over Reyes Sanchez of Topeka (7-3, 3 KOs). Sanchez previously took Walsh the distance. “I feel amazing. This was a special win because, of course, it was a rematch. My hard work is showing now in the ring. I want you to see that, guys.”
When the fight ended, Ali Walsh walked over to former world champion and ESPN broadcaster Tim Bradley and fist bumped him. He explained that Bradley called for the body shot in Friday’s fighter meeting. “It was a beautiful shot; it was the shot I was looking for. It was the shot I was dreaming of,” said Walsh. Walsh says he may consider moving up to super middleweight, as making the 160-pound middleweight limit is challenging for him as he’s turned 22 years old.
Undercard Wins in San Diego For Delgado, Brooks, Martinez, Contreras, Lopez, and Mireles
Neither Lindolfo Delgado of Nueva Leon, Mexico nor Omar Aguilar of Ensenada wanted to suffer their first loss. The pair traded serious leather for eight rounds in their junior welterweight bout. Delgado (16-0, 13 KOs) prevailed over Aguilar (24-1, 23 KOs) by decision with scores of 79-73 twice and 77-75. Referee Jack Reiss missed a knockdown by Delgado of Aguilar, but it didn’t affect the outcome. Aguilar caught Delgado with multiple hooks to the head, but he failed to watch for incoming fire when he thought Delgado was hurt. It was reminiscent of Rios vs. Alvarado and fun for the boisterous crowd.
Austin Brooks of San Diego (8-0, 2 KOs) dropped Oliver Galicia of Los Angeles (5-1-1, 3 KOs) in the first round of their four-round super featherweight bout to the delight of Brooks’ many local fans in the arena. Galicia was rocked several times but survived to the final bell, hoping to avoid his first loss. Brooks wins by unanimous decision with scores of 40-35 across the board.
Junior lightweight Xavier Martinez of Sacramento (18-1, 11 KOs), a stablemate of Ali Walsh, got the stoppage at 2:57 of round five against Alejandro Guerrero of Houston (12-3, 9 KOs). Both banged away in a crowd-pleasing slugfest until Martinez did enough damage to force referee Eddy Hernandez to step in.
Lightweight Miguel Contreras of Bakersfield (12-1-1, 6 KOs) won an all-action fight against Josec Ruiz of Honduras (23-6-3, 16 KOs) by unanimous decision. Contreras won handily, although Ruiz never gave in. Scores were 80-72 twice and 79-73
Featherweight Luis Alberto Lopez of Mexicali (26-2, 15 KOs) took out Yelvon Vargas of Santa Rosa, Colorado (20-11, 15 KOs) with a wicked body shot at one minute of round two.
Heavyweight Antonio Mireles of Des Moines, Iowa made it a good night for the RGBA team. Mireles (2-0, 2 KOs) went two for two after a successful debut in San Diego, this time against Kaleel Carter (2-2, 2 KOs) of Bellflower, California.