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Oscar Valdez (L) and Emanuel Navarrete (R) exchange punches during their WBO junior lightweight title bout at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Emanuel Navarrete chose to box, but when he needed to, he also slugged it out with Oscar Valdez.
Regardless of how he fought during those 12 rounds, Navarrete was able to grind out a hard-fought win.
Navarrete defeated Oscar Valdez by unanimous decision Saturday night before a boisterous, pro-Valdez crowd of 10,246 at the Desert Diamond Arena. Scores were 116-112, 118-110, and 119-109 for Navarrete (37-1, 31 knockouts), who successfully defended his WBO junior lightweight title.
The Navarrete-Valdez fight was one of the most anticipated clashes between fighters born in Mexico and whose styles make for action fights.
Navarrete was the aggressor from the opening bell, walking down Valdez and backing him up against the ropes. Albeit awkward, the tactic worked for Navarrete, as he would lunge and connect with left hooks to the head.
During the second round, Navarrete began mixing in right uppercuts to the head of Valdez. He would continue to walk Valdez down, throwing lead hooks and crosses.
Valdez did well when he initiated exchanges, particularly by throwing and landing stiff jabs to the head of Navarrete. During an exchange in round three, Valdez was stunned by a right cross, left uppercut to the head. Valdez was able to gather himself and fought on.
Navarrete continued to connect with punches to the head of Valdez, causing redness above and below both eyes.
Valdez began to rally in round five, taking the initiative to throw and land lead left hooks and right crosses to the head of Navarrete, who took the punches well. Navarrete was able to split the guard of Valdez by throwing and landing right uppercuts to the head.
Navarrete began switching from conventional to southpaw and back to a conventional stance. The tactic did not particularly give Navarrete a significant advantage, but more kept Valdez from initiating exchanges.
Valdez was able to do his best work in rounds eight and nine, as he was able to beat Navarrete to the punch with continued hooks and crosses to the head.
The rally was short-lived. Navarrete swung momentum back his way during the 10th round, outboxing and outlanding Valdez during several exchanges. Valdez’s right eye looked almost shut from the amount of punches Navarrete landed, but that did not stop him from fighting in the pocket, producing the best exchanges in the fight.
Navarrete was the dominant fighter during the last two rounds of the fight, finishing strong and being the more-effective fighter.
The 28-year-old Navarette, who resides in San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, won the vacant WBO title in his previous fight on February 3, overcoming a knockdown to stop Liam Wilson of Australia. Ironically, that fight also took place at the Desert Diamond Arena.
Navarrete has won world title belts in three different weight classes (122, 126, and 130 pounds).
Valdez, who resides in Nogales, Mexico, falls to 31-2, 23 KOs. Valdez has now lost two of his last three fights, with the other loss coming at the hands of Shakur Stevenson on April 30 of last year in a world title unification fight.
The 32-year-old is managed by Frank Espinoza and trained by Eddy Reynoso, who also trains Ring Magazine super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]