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Navarrete Beats Diaz, And Edgar Berlanga KO Streak Is OVER!

Michael Woods

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Edgar Berlanga looks to stop Demond Nicholson.

Emanuel Navarrete has been an under the radar champ, a guy who made a splash with an upset win to snag a crown, but because he hasn’t been able to lure big names to get a crack at him, his profile is a bit lower than it should be.

The 26 year old Mexican got it done and then some on Saturday night, in Florida, cresting a Top Rank event with a stoppage of more than game vet Christopher Diaz. Navarrete put ‘Pitufo’ down four times, and thankfully, the Diaz corner surrendered on behalf of their kid the last time.

You recall that Navarrete, now 33-1, beat Isaac Dogboe, then a hot-stuff attraction on the ascent, in December 2018. He got the rematch, too, then downed Francisco De Vaca, Juan Miguel Elorde and Francisco Horta. None of those guys have gloved up since those 2019 affairs, for what it’s worth.  A defense of his WBO super bantam crown against Joe Santisima followed, and then a rust-shedder win over Uriel Lopez last June and a UD over then 18-0 Ruben Villa last October preceded this face-off.

I got reminded of how impressed I was by Navarrete, who derailed the Dogboe train in NYC, seeing him live, as I saw his power, and ability to gauge distance and inflict a timing advantage on Diaz, now 26-3 (losses to Masayuki Ito and Shakur Stevenson).

If we assume that a Leo Santa Cruz and a Gary Russell Jr, also title holders at 126, won’t do a intra-mural test against the Top Rank battler, then what do you all think about Navarrete moving to 130 to challenge Oscar Valdez, the WBC’s 130 pound champion?

Then, we also had a development in the development of Edgar Berlanga. The streak is OVAH! Demond Nicholson managed to shrug off four knockdowns, three from left hooks and one from a right, just to send the message that he’s not a single-weapon sort, and hear the final bell. After eight rounds, Berlanga stayed unbeaten, but now he won’t have that K01 streak hanging over him. That’s for the best, I think, although it will have a few fans who hopped on hop off his train.That’s fine, it will probably help him in the longer term, because he can fight his fights at a rhythm and pace that isn’t at all forced, in theory.

Also, I was reminded that Xander Zayas has the sort of throwback style that is to my liking. See how he wanted to take out Demarcus Layton, and did so, in round one?

He is 18, for the record, and I think maybe we should pay extra attention to his continuing growth, he may well be in very meaningful fights by early 2023.

Xander Zayas gets the KO win on April 24, 2021.

Did you get a sense that we saw the 1-2 punch for an MSG Puerto Rican-packed show from Top Rank, sooner rather than later, with Berlanga and Zayas pleasing the patrons in Florida? Photo by Mikey Williams

Here is the release sent out by Top Rank after the card was complete:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (April 24, 2021) — WBO featherweight world champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete knows how to add an exclamation point. The Mexican star knocked down Puerto Rican contender Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz four times, closing the show in the 12th round of an action-packed battle Saturday evening at Silver Spurs Arena.

It was the first successful featherweight title defense for Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs), who also reigned as WBO junior featherweight world champion. After the knockdown in the 12th, Diaz’s trainer, Nelson Rodriguez, threw in the towel.

Navarrete said, “I think we did put on a worthy performance (of Mexcio vs. Puerto Rico) because ‘Pitufo,’ I knew he was tough, I knew he was strong. And I knew he could hit hard, but he surpassed all my expectations. He brought out all the best in me and so I’ve got a lot of respect for Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz. 

“I was really impressed by ‘Pitufo’ because every time I hurt him, every time I dropped him, he came back stronger. He was a beast in there because he kept coming at me. He kept getting better even though I kept hurting him, and as the fight progressed, you’d expect him to get weaker but he kept getting stronger. I just couldn’t understand it. So I have the utmost respect for Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz and what he did tonight.”

Diaz (26-3, 16 KOs) entered the fight having won two straight since a decision loss to Shakur Stevenson in a non-title bout. He landed 183 punches on Navarrete, but he was unable to seriously hurt the seasoned champion.

Diaz said, ” I’m very disappointed. I wanted to win. It’s a title shot. But next time. He’s a great fu—– fighter. He hit hard. We went to war. I made my best fight. I was in shape. Everything was good. 

“I’m not a weak fighter. I always bring my heart with me. I came here to fight. I said I want to box but that guy, he’s a problem. We come here to fight, too. He caught me. My coach loves me like a son, and he stopped the fight.”

In other action:

Super Middleweight: Edgar Berlanga (17-0, 16 KOs) UD 8 Demond Nicholson (23-4-1, 20 KOs). Scores: 79-68 and 79-69 2x.

There is a first time for everything.

“The streak” is no more, but Berlanga is still undefeated. Berlanga, who had 16 consecutive first-round knockouts entering the night, was extended the eight-round distance by Nicholson. He dropped Nicholson four times en route to the near-shutout, and the reading of the scorecards was academic.

Berlanga knocked down Nicholson with a left hook in the second round, a right hand in the third round, a left hook in the fifth round, and a right hand just before the bell sounded to end the eighth.

Berlanga said, “I feel amazing. It’s kind of fu—- up I had to go to the judges with all the people here. I know they wanted a first-round knockout, but I enjoyed getting the experience. 

“It was an awesome experience for me. I caught him with an amazing shot at 10 seconds of the last round. I wanted to get him out! But I didn’t, but I got the experience, especially in front of my Puerto Rican people. It was good.”

Junior Welterweight: Josue Vargas (19-1, 9 KOs) UD 10 Willie Shaw (13-3, 9 KOs). Scores: 98-92 and 99-91 2x.

Vargas, the Puerto Rican-born contender who now fights out of the Bronx, New York, survived a rough patch when he was buzzed in the opening round. He then proceeded to outbox Shaw, a native of Oakland, California. Vargas has won 13 consecutive bouts since a controversial disqualification loss early in his career.

Lightweight: Joseph Adorno (14-0-2, 12 KOs) MAJORITY DRAW 8 Jamaine Ortiz (14-0-1, 8 KOs). Scores: 76-74 Ortiz and 75-75 2x.

The Adorno-Ortiz fight got high marks from all who watched. Photo by Mikey Williams

War. Eight rounds of fistic war. Adorno and Ortiz fought to a dead heat but combined to give boxing fans what will ultimately stand as one of 2021’s best fights. Adorno knocked down Ortiz with left hooks in the second and seventh rounds, but when Ortiz wasn’t on the canvas, he was muscling Adorno on the inside and ripping him with combinations. After nearly being knocked out in the seventh, Ortiz dominated the eighth round, sweeping the stanza on all three judges’ cards to salvage the draw.

Featherweight: Orlando Gonzalez (17-0, 10 KOs) UD 8 Juan Antonio Lopez (15-9, 6 KOs). Scores: 78-74 and 79-73 2x.

Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez didn’t have it easy against Lopez, but a determined effort and a boost from the partisan crowd was more than enough.

Welterweight: Xander Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs) TKO 1 Demarcus Layton (8-2-1, 5 KOs), :56. 

Zayas tied his personal record for the shortest evening of his career, dispatching Arkansas native Layton in under a minute. A left hook started the onslaught, then another sweeping left planted Layton to the canvas. Referee Emil Lombardi saw enough and waved off the bout.

Zayas said, “This was amazing, something I was looking forward to for a long time. The last time I fought in front of a crowd, it was in Puerto Rico. Doing it here in Kissimmee, in front of my Puerto Rican fans, was memorable. First-round knockout, what else can I ask for?”

Junior Featherweight: Jeremy Adorno (5-0, 1 KO) MD 4 Ramiro Martinez (2-1-2, 1 KO). Scores: 38-38, 39-37 and 40-36. Adorno had the most difficult evening of his young career, returning from a 15-month layoff to edge Texas resident Martinez. Adorno was stunned in the second and fourth rounds, but his volume and clean punching told the story of the fight.

Junior Lightweight: Jaycob Gomez (2-0, 2 KOs) KO 1 Mobley Villegas (3-2, 2 KOs), 2:38. Puerto Rican phenom Gomez prevailed in less than a round, ending matters with a three-punch combination that put Villegas down for the 10-count.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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