Emanuel Navarrete was at one point boxing’s most active reigning titlist to where not even the pandemic could keep him out of the ring for very long.
This weekend will feature a new look for the two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titlist, who returns ten months after his last fight. It’s the longest inactive stretch since 2014 for the 27-year-old Mexican, who welcomed the break.
“I love to be active. At the same time, I did reach a point where I needed a little bit of rest,” Navarrete confessed to BoxingScene.com. “It wasn’t like I was fully rested and not training at all. I stayed in shape, stayed in the gym keeping active though without going through a full training camp.”
Navarrete (35-1, 29KOs) returns to the ring this weekend, facing Mexicali’s Eduardo Baez (21-2-2, 7KOs) atop an ESPN telecast from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. The same venue hosted his last fight, a competitive but clear unanimous decision win over Joet Gonzalez last October.
The win over Gonzalez marked Navarrete’s ninth win in a title fight, all crammed in a 34-month stretch that included an additional non-title fight atop one of the first shows immediately following the first wave of the global Covid health crisis. Navarrete won the WBO junior featherweight title in December 2018, racking up five title defenses through February 2020.
His featherweight run has been a bit more spread out. Navarrete outpointed Ruben Villa in October 2020 to win the WBO featherweight title, then going six months between each of his two title defenses.
The extended break leading into this weekend’s fight was in part attributed to seeking a superfight with unbeaten lineal and unified WBC/WBO junior lightweight champion Shakur Stevenson. Talks never advanced beyond the preliminary stage, with both instead headlining separate ESPN shows one week apart and Navarrete staying put at featherweight for the time being.
“Once I was ready to return to the ring, my team explored the best opportunity for me,” noted Navarrete. “It has led to this fight with Eduardo Baez on [Saturday]. I feel very strong, I’m at peace and I’m ready to continue my WBO featherweight title reign.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox