Junior featherweight world titlist Emanuel Navarrete has declared himself the Mexican “Iron Man” of boxing, and it’s a name that aptly fits, given his unusually busy fighting schedule.
Shortly after Navarrete surprisingly won the WBO world title from Isaac Dogboe in December 2018, he told his co-promoters Zanfer and Top Rank that he wanted to fight as often as possible.
Navarrete fights for the fifth time in 12 months on Saturday (ESPN+, 9 p.m. ET) and defends his junior featherweight belt for the fourth time, against countryman Francisco Horta at the Auditorio GNP Seguros in Puebla, Mexico.
“That’s what world champions are supposed to do,” Navarrete said in translated comments. “Look at the great Mexican champions that came before me. Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya and Erik Morales built their names and their legacies by being active. That’s the tradition I am following. I am the Mexican ‘Iron Man’ of boxing.”
As much as Navarrete wants to keep busy, Top Rank’s Bob Arum equally loves having a fighter with the desire to continually be active.
“He’s like a throwback fighter,” Arum said. “I’ve promoted some guys who loved to stay busy, guys like Donald Curry, [Alexis] Arguello and [James] Toney. Toney wanted to fight every week. These guys loved fighting. Navarrete loves fighting.
“He’s like Morales, because Morales loved to fight and if he could, he would have fought every six weeks. He loved the competition. It wasn’t like a job to him. He had a joy for it, like Navarrete. A lot of guys went into boxing for a joy of fighting, and then once they’re in there it became about the Benjamins, and that’s OK, but they fought less and didn’t care. For a lot of fighters today it’s, ‘If you don’t pay me crazy amounts of money I ain’t stepping in the ring.’ Navarrete is making good money and he loves to fight.”
Arum recalled Navarrete’s defense in August against Francisco De Vaca in particular — a quick knockout win. After the fight Arum, who wanted a world title fight with a Mexican fighter on Tyson Fury’s Sept. 14 undercard because the fight was on Mexican Independence Day weekend in Las Vegas, got into the ring and asked Navarrete if he would be willing to fight again in three weeks.
“I asked him in the ring — ‘Can you fight next month?’ He said, ‘Of course,'” Arum recalled. “If I offered the guy 10 fights a year he would do it because he enjoys it and it’s his job. It’s like a breath of fresh air.”
Arum acknowledged that one of the reasons the best fighters typically fight only twice a year — maybe three at the most — is because once they reach that level it becomes hard to pay them the millions they seek so frequently. Arum said that Navarrete is making mid-six-figure purses at this point in his career, so he remains affordable.
“As long as it’s under seven figures you can work it out,” Arum said. “And he’s still making good money.”
Since Navarrete’s upset of Dogboe, he has enjoyed being busy and owning the spotlight.
“I always knew I could get to this point,” he said. “When I fought Isaac Dogboe the first time, very few people gave me a chance. I seized the opportunity.”
After the 24-year-old Navarrete (29-1, 25 KOs) won the title over Dogboe, he made three successful defenses: a 12th-round knockout of Dogboe in a May 11 rematch, a third-round knockout of De Vaca on Aug. 17 and a fourth-round stoppage of Juan Miguel Elorde on Sept. 14.
Now comes defense No. 4, against Horta (20-3-1, 10 KOs), 26, who is on a 12-0-1 streak since 2014, including 10 victories in a row, albeit against lesser competition.
After having all of his previous title bouts in the United States, Navarrete is happy that he gets to fight Horta in Mexico.
“It means a lot to defend my world title back in my home country,” he said. “I have fought at many of the great venues in America, but this is extra special for me. The fans in Puebla have welcomed me with open arms. This is going to be a classic all-Mexican battle, but ‘Vaquero’ will once again be victorious.”
With a win, Navarrete and Arum hope to step up his competition in 2020. Arum said Navarrete would like his next fight to be in February or March, and his ideal vision would include a title unification fight next year.
“In 2020, I would love to unify titles at 122 pounds, and if any of the bantamweight champions would like to move up to 122, I am here,” Navarrete said. “I want to fight the best. That’s the Mexican way.”
Arum said he would try to accommodate Navarrete’s desire for a bigger fight.
“At 122 pounds there are some really good fighters who are champions in the other organizations and we would look to make some of those fights,” Arum said. “We would look to try to make a unification fight with Rey Vargas. We can work with [Vargas promoter] Golden Boy, no problem. We would love to make a unification fight with [Daniel] Roman and we would not be averse to doing a Navarrete fight with [Roman co-promoter] Eddie Hearn on DAZN, or with Golden Boy on DAZN.
“We just want to get a big fight done, and let Navarrete keep fighting and keep winning.”