The last four weeks have featured viable 2021 Fight of the Year (FOTY) candidates, and the newest addition to the mix took place last night in San Diego at the Pechanga Arena. Reigning WBO Featherweight titlist 🇲🇽Emmanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete (35-1-0, 29KO) may have broken 🇺🇸Joet Gonzalez’s (24-2-0, 14KO) face…but he couldn’t quite break his spirit, as he endured his injuries and pushed through to contribute his half to a brutal fight.
Once again, Vaquero lives up to his nickname, as Navarrete brought volume, and power punching to the mix, being the lynchpin of the entertainment, and putting forth enough of that sustained effort to secure a Unanimous Decision victory in a competitive bout. This was Navarrete’s second title defense since winning the WBO strap in December of 2020, while Gonzalez falls to 0 – 2 in his pursuit for a world title, but gained respect for his efforts despite the verdict announced.
The fight started off ablaze, with Navarrete pressing the action, and Joet Gonzalez showing his early confidence by stepping to the physically imposing Featherweight titlist, and Navarrete was forced to oblige…though it was welcoming for him, considering that is the chief element within the environment in which he makes his living. Gonzalez did the superior work in the opening frame, getting the respect he needed early in order to put together the building blocks needed…but when you fight Navarrete, it gets more and more difficult to sustain the more time passes on in a fight.
Interestingly enough, Joet historically has been more the midrange boxer, while Vaquero is more the come forward type, but it was Joet coming forward and bringing the action, while Navarrete bounced out on his backfoot notably in the second round. Navarrete did some good work in a couple of clinches, while Gonzalez continued to attack the long frame of Emmanuel. The first sign of much damage that was to come for the challenger, was a laceration that formed under Joet’s right eye.
Navarrete opened up in the third round and began to throw what only he could throw, getting from behind his stick, to land left lunging in left uppers, uppercuts from a distance, and began to swamp Joet with 6 punch combinations. Once the pain was felt, Joet began to somewhat get stuck behind his supreme cage defense as we call it. With the swelling doubling under Gonzalez right eye, and blood now pouring from over it…his confidence did not waiver, and continued to take it to the world titlist, getting his off whenever Navarrete finished his punch sequences.
By this point, the action deserved a “🖃Combat Stamp”, as it was beginning to turn into a war, that we would expect between two Mexican-blooded fighters. Was Joet’s cheekbone broken without confirmation, it sure appeared that way, and it gave Navarrete something to aim for…though Gonzalez kept his defense tight enough to avoid getting hit in that area too often. Navarrete, though his style is an ugly one, showed that he could do quite a few different things that at face value, wouldn’t support the style of fighter that he shows himself to be.
There were times where he circled outside off the backfoot, peppering the long jab while doing so, and changed his levels often, giving Joet an oddly elusive target (by Navarrete’s standards) to try and find at a consistent rate. There was a short chopping Joet right hand to the jaw that staggered Navarrete at the backend of the 4th round, that made an already intriguing fight that much more interesting.
Joet worked him to the ropes and winged some menacing looking blows over the top, while Navarrete fought back without his legs under him until the sound of the bell to end the round. Despite his moment, there appeared to be another cut that was formed on Gonzalez face over the left eye now. As the 5th round started, Joet decided to test him by bull-rushing his way in to see if Navarrete got his legs all the way back underneath him.
Navarrete decided to switch to southpaw for a bit in the 5th, looking for alternative ways to find seams in Gonzalez’s high guard/elbow’s tight defense, and did a decent job firing in combinations, landing the last punches in his sequences. The 6th round, Navarrete was looking to raise hell with the sheer volume of sustained combination punching that he authored up, which was the first time in the bout where Joet appeared to be getting swamped by the action. He had his moments, but they were few and far between in those skirmishes within the round.
The 7th round, Navarrete began to switch it up a bit, while Joet was beginning to react as oppose to lead the way he did for much of the first half of the fight. There was a moment where Navarrete stumbled back to the ropes, but their feet were tangled up. Nonetheless this was a quality round, with the tone of the fight hanging in the balance.
With both also feeling that, they put forth an 8th round that was perhaps the best action of the contest, as Joet had a much better round than he did in his previous two, coming forward, getting some clean right hands to land over the top, but for every 3 that he landed, Emmanuel Navarrete answered with 4 or 5. At this point, it was the volume that allowed him to find the target at a higher clip than his determined compatriot.
The battle of will had jumped in front of the battle of skill in terms of its importance at this juncture of the fight, and neither showed any real significant signs of budging from their position to succumb to their hurdles…whether it be Navarrete tiring from throwing the kitchen sink, or Joet succumbing to what looked like a battered, broken face from accumulated punishment.
The 9th round was fought relatively even in the first half, but Joet asserted himself well, and landed the signature punch in the round, a right hand while Nava was by the turn buckle. It didn’t hurt the titlist, but it certainly got his attention, and infuriated him, to where he looked for immediate payback, coming off the ropes and firing away, but it was Gonzalez who did the better work in the 9th frame.
Joet’s face looked like minced-meat going back to the corner, and all night his Cutman Mike Bazzel had his work seriously cut out for him…but he did just enough to keep his determined fighter going, and he deserves to get a ton of credit for it, applying the heavy enswell to the cheekbone, and coagulating the cuts rather well. Round 9, Navarrete came out smokin’, winging a 9 punch combination. Apparently Joet landed a lowblow, so Navarrete looked over at the Ref while he was by the turnbuckle, and Joet blasted him in the jaw with a right hand that buckled him, and continued to fire away – protect yourself at all times.
Navarrete after the fact slumped down to the canvas after another beltline shot straying low, but I believe Referee Ray Corona didn’t see that – instead thought his reaction was overexaggerated to the FIRST low blow where Navarrete stopped to look at him…so he didn’t give him the 5 minutes to recuperate, instead giving him a warning for what he perceived as his over-the-top reaction – a judgement call on his part, though it was clear that he missed the second low blow.
Navarrete was mad, and stepped up his aggression in the round, throwing every type of punch imaginable, and mixing it up heavily in combination to the head and the body. The 10th round, Joet stepped around to the left, and caught Navarrete with a left hook to the body that put him on the canvas, but Joet stepped on his foot while doing so, which resulted in a slip, thus no knockdown.
The Championship rounds were upon us, and round 11 featured some good back n forth action, despite both missing a lot of punches. Navarrete’s volume made the difference early, but Joet landed some beautiful right hands in the middle portion of the stanza. It was Navarrete however who put forth more effort, stringing some quality work together to punctuate the round.
Much like the 11th round, the final stanza featured both fighters going after it, culminating what was a hell of a night when it came to the action produced by both proud fighters. Navarrete threw the most punches, while Joet had a higher rate of accuracy, with both making a lasting statement, duking it out until the 12th and final bell concluded the fight. The fans in attendance at Pechanga Arena in San Diego gave a roar of approval for the war that they had just witnessed – money well spent on their tickets.
Two of the scorecards were accurate, but of course as we have been accustomed to getting lately, there was one terrible scorecard in the mix. Nonetheless, the right man won a Unanimous Decision, a fight that was closely contested, but clear enough to where no debate is necessary upon the verdict that was announced. Below are the Judges official rulings, the one terrible scorecard highlighted, and how we scored it here at the Combat Project.