Navarrete: ‘I think Baez is coming with a strong desire to win’

Mexican star Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete is ready to defend his WBO featherweight world title against a fellow countryman who is no stranger to toe-to-toe action. Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) will take on upset-minded Eduardo Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs) in the 12-round main event this Saturday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego.

In the co-feature, San Diego native Giovani “Gallo de Oro” Santillan (29-0, 16 KOs) looks to shine in front of a hometown crown in a 10-round welterweight battle against unbeaten contender Julio Luna (19-0-2, 10 KOs).

Undefeated middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KOs), grandson of Muhammad Ali, returns in a four-round rematch versus Reyes Sanchez (7-2, 3 KOs). Ali Walsh is fighting in the same venue where his grandfather got his jaw broken by Ken Norton in a 1973 split decision loss.

Navarrete-Baez, Santillan-Luna and Ali Walsh-Sanchez 2 will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ (6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m PT) and includes an eight-round junior welterweight showdown between undefeated Mexican prospects Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13 KOs) and Omar “Pollo” Aguilar (24-0, 23 KOs).

At Thursday’s press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.

Emanuel Navarrete

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“I feel really good. We had a great preparation. We’re going to be making a really good return. It is a bit hard to make the weight because of the time that we were away from the ring. But aside from that, there’s nothing that worries me about being able to make this defense of my championship in excellent fashion.”

“I think Baez is coming with a strong desire to win. He is very well conditioned, and that can make for a great fight. I’ve also prepared very well. We both want this world championship. I have it, but he wants to snatch it away from me. That can make for a great fight from the start. So, I think this fight will lend itself to being a great matchup. We hope that Baez comes out very strong, that we both last the 12 rounds, and that we fight at a very high level.”

“I’m very happy to be returning after the layoff. We hope that my career is going on a good path so that I can keep growing in this new era with Top Rank.”

Eduardo Baez

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“I’m very happy because we are fighting for a world title, which is the dream come true for any boxer. We felt really good during our preparation, and we’re coming in great condition. We are very excited to be in this position.”

“It’s an important fight for a world title. We’re coming double prepared. We are so happy to be fighting against a great champion like ‘El Vaquero.’ We thank him for the opportunity. We’ve come very prepared to snatch the title from him. I’ve seen it already. It’s very nice. He better not get careless because I’m going to snatch it away.”

Giovani Santillan

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

It’s exciting for me to be fighting in San Diego again. It’ll be my second time fighting at Pechanga Arena. It’s really a dream come true. Ever since I was an amateur, I’ve been dreaming about fighting in these big venues. To be on ESPN with Top Rank means everything to me, so I’ve been working hard for this.”

“He’s an undefeated fighter like me. So, when you have something like that, it lights up a fire inside me to train extra hard. So, I’m ready. I’m ready for whatever he brings to the table.”

Julio Luna

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

This is the opportunity of my career. I come from a family of champions. My sister is a world champion. My objective is to be world champion, and this is the opportunity that will open the path towards that in my career.”

“You will all see the best Julio Luna of my career. This is my opportunity. I plan to leave everything in the ring so I can obtain the victory. I prepared very well. I am ready to win both mentally and physically.”

Nico Ali Walsh

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“Honestly, I feel like there’s a lot to prove. That was the start of my career. That was my third fight, and I have been improving beyond what everyone thought I could. It’s exciting that we get to do this, and I think I’ll have a good time. I truly think my last few fights have spoken for themselves, and it shows how hard I’ve been working.”

Reyes Sanchez

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“It’s not very often in life that you get a second chance. I’m glad it’s going through. Thank you to everyone who made it happen. I’ve rewatched the fight plenty of times. I think gave him a tougher fight than they were expecting. I expect the same thing Saturday night.”

Lindolfo Delgado

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

This is a great opportunity here with Top Rank. I’m very happy. It’s going to be a really good fight. I know that a lot of people are looking forward to this fight because of the kind of fighters we are and because of the record that each of us has. I think it’s going to be really good, so don’t miss it. This is an opportunity that we have both been looking for, and it’s the kind of fight we need to move forward in our careers.”

Omar Aguilar

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“It’s the right time because we both have good records. This is the moment in which fighters begin to rise in the ranks so that bigger opportunities can come. Like I’ve always said, I always prepare for the rounds I’m scheduled to fight for. I know he is a strong opponent who boxes really well. And if it goes the distance, I’ll be ready.”

Fulton on win over Figueroa: ‘I was landing a lot of clean shots’

In a non-stop action fight between undefeated super bantamweight world champions, Stephen Fulton Jr. unified WBO and WBC titles with a majority decision victory over Brandon Figueroa live on SHOWTIME Saturday night in a Premier Boxing Champions event from Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas.

This showdown was set up earlier this year with each fighter capturing a world title by defeating an undefeated opponent, as Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) bested Angelo Leo in January to capture the WBO belt, while Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) stopped Luis Nery in May to earn his WBC title. The two champions put on a memorable display, combining to throw over 1,700 punches across 12 rounds according to CompuBox.

“I was catching him in between every shot he was throwing,” said Fulton. “He was making it sloppy and rough.”

“I hurt him like five or six times,” said Figueroa. “I put the pressure on for the whole 12 rounds, landed the cleaner shots and hurt him. I thought I only lost four rounds at the most.”

It was Figueroa’s activity (1,060 punches thrown) against Fulton’s accuracy (37% connect rate) squaring off throughout a narrow fight in which neither man was able to sustain momentum for long. In rounds four through seven, the fighters were separated by just two punches landed (103 to 101 for Figueroa).

“I was landing a lot of clean shots,” said Fulton. “He was throwing wild shots that the fans were enjoying, but he was hitting my arms a lot.”

In a memorable sixth frame, each fighter landed nothing but power shots with Figueroa connecting on 36 to Fulton’s 34. In a frantic 10th round, Figueroa looked to have Fulton hurt after numerous flurries of power punches. However, Fulton was able to recover in the final two rounds to win both the 11th and 12th on two judges’ cards.

That final push helped Fulton hold on with the score of 116-112 from two judges overruling a 114-114 card. After the fight, both fighters believed they had done enough to win and were open to battling again in a rematch. 

“It was an amazing experience,” said Fulton. “The judges made their decision and we can run it back.”

“It was the robbery of the year,” said Figueroa. “The fans who watched this live know who won. I always come to fight and I did that all night.”


Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

In the co-main event, top super bantamweight contender Ra’eese Aleem (19-0, 12 KOs) remained unbeaten with a majority decision over Mexico’s Eduardo Baez (20-2-2, 7 KOs) after 10 rounds of action.

“I’m coming off a long lay-off so I was a little bit rusty,” said Aleem. “I wanted to stop him, but he kept bringing it. I did what I had to do.”

Aleem showed off his versatile attack from the outset, flashing combinations combined with consistent activity that would carry him throughout the 10 rounds. Baez proved to be a sturdy challenge, and despite loading up for big right hands throughout the fight, he was able to land and keep Aleem from overwhelming him.

Aleem switched between southpaw and orthodox stances during the action to varying success, and overall held a 232 to 111 advantage in punches landed. Of those 232, Aleem connected on 90 body shots that helped him keep Baez at bay.

“I’m a dog,” said Aleem. “I grinded it out. I turned southpaw and got caught with some shots, but I hung in there. I can hang with anyone. It doesn’t matter who steps in there against me, I’m going to win.”

Baez fought valiantly through a cut on his forehead that opened up in the middle rounds due to an accidental headbutt. Aleem appeared to have Baez hurt in the ninth round with a counter right hand from the southpaw stance, but ended up holding on through round 10 to win the decision with scores of 98-92, 96-94 and 95-95.

“He was a tough Mexican fighter, but I got the job done,” said Aleem. “I want the winner of the main event. They can run but they can’t hide.”