Written by Tré Berry III | 04/25/2021
ESPN’s headline attraction lived up to the expectations of entertainment, and it was 🇲🇽Emmanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete (33-1-0, 28KO) loudly defending his WBO Featherweight title, knocking out 🇵🇷Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (26-3-0, 16KO) late in the bout, despite a Herculean effort from the challenger, who was willing to give his all in the waning moments, but it wasn’t enough to swamp the power punching accuracy that Navarrete implemented down the stretch.
The first round was an interesting one, with both fighters holding their cards close to their vest, with both using heavy lateral movement. Diaz landed a nice counter-right hand, a shot that Navarrete is constantly open for, and typically isn’t made to pay for that mistake.
Pitufo landed it once again early in the second, and was doing a very good job, evading the Titlist’s power, and circling out the way, re-establishing himself in the center of the ring. It was early, but Diaz had command of the action through the first 2 rounds of combat – an interesting development as it unfolded.
Navarrete did get himself on the board, landing an extremely long, awkward left hook as Diaz thought he was out of range to get hit, and Emmanuel began to let his hands go. Diaz in round 4 got back to his blueprint, peppering the body with the jab, slide stepping, the occasional counter right hand over the top, and keeping the Champion off-balanced, and he did a good job in doing so within the round…that until Navarrete landed a long, lead leaping in left uppercut that landed right on the button of the chin that dropped the challenger. Diaz got up to his feet, and had the intent to exchange to the final bell.
Diaz shook the cobwebs off in the corner, and got back to business, while Navarrete continued his high work output, looking to chop Diaz down again. Some furious exchanges occurred in the 5th round, much of those exchanges featuring better work by Diaz, as he clearly had the advantage in closed quarters inside of Navarrete’s freakishly rangy reach, and Navarrete doing his damage from the outside with his awkward delivery, and unpredictability.
Navarrete, though he didn’t land much early in the 6th round, his workrate bothered Diaz, and kept him in a shell that didn’t allow him to get anything off, which was a plus for the Champ. Diaz did work himself back in the round with quality body work – an interesting round from a scorers perspective.
Vaquero was inflicting compiling damage in the 7th round. Per warnings by the Referee, a point was taken away from Diaz. Considering the way the fight was going, Diaz opened up his arsenal in the rest of the round, adapting his approach, looking to hurt the Champ at all costs.
The 8th round was a damn good one, with both fighters upping the ante, delivering what was promised once we learned of this fight being made months ago. An excellent combination from Vaquero took the legs away from Diaz, and put him on the canvas again. for the count. Navarrete made sure to punish him some more, and Diaz couldn’t take any more of it, going down to his knees for a 2nd time in the round, and third time in the fight. Beaten and bloody, he mustered enough fortitude to get up, convincing the Ref he could continue, and made it out of the round.
Desperate times brings the warrior out of the gutsy, and Diaz fired away with the power, trying anything possible to get back into the fight. Navarrete landed all of what looked to be a 8, 9 punch combination from angles you’d never expect to be hit from, and somehow Diaz stood up to it, but was indicative of how dominate Navarrete was in the backend of the ninth.
Diaz showed his guts down the stretch, especially a herculean effort in the 12th round that I’ll personally never forget, but even that wasn’t enough to fully turn the tide, as Navarrete landed a devastating series of blows that had Pitufo damaged beyond repair, forcing him to collapse under his feet. Considering the immense amount of damage that occurred from the heavy fists of Navarrete, the Referee surprisingly allowed Diaz to continue with seconds left, but it appeared as if a Ring Doctor stepped on to the apron to signal for the stoppage, giving Navarrete the scintillating stoppage, in one of his more impressive performances since making it to the big stage.
EMANUEL NAVARRETE’S PLACEMENT AT THE FEATHERWEIGHT DIVISION
The question is a valid one, how good is Emmanuel Navarrete in this division well, I’ll say this, I see no drop offs in his ability, size, reach, or power, so he looks to be every part of the fighter he was at Super-Bantamweight, which relegates him to be an elite Featherweight. With 🇬🇧Josh Warrington losing, top fighters like 🇺🇸Shakur Stevenson, and 🇺🇸Oscar Valdez moving up in weight, and with 🇺🇸Gary Russell Jr. fighting seemingly once every 5 years…for a division that doesn’t have a true Ring-Magazine Champion, Navarrete should rank high up there with the best of them, and the lot will have to find a way to deal with the heavily effective awkwardness that he brings to the table.