Another big title fight is heading to the greater Phoenix area.
The highly anticipated Oscar Valdez-Emanuel Navarrete now has a home. The vacant WBO junior lightweight title fight will land at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Valdez-Navarrete is due to take place on February 3 on an ESPN platform.
The location provides a slight fan support edge to Valdez (30-1, 23KOs), a two-time Olympian for Mexico who has childhood roots in Tucson—less than two hours southeast of Phoenix. It will mark his sixth overall appearance in Arizona, and his first time back in Phoenix since a pair of prospect-level fights in 2014.
Valdez will also enter on the heels of his lone career defeat, a twelve-round, unanimous decision to Shakur Stevenson in their April 30 WBC/WBO junior lightweight unification bout. Valdez suffered a sixth-round knockdown en route to losing by scores of 118-109, 118-109 and 117-110 in their ESPN-televised championship fight from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Valdez was attempting the second defense of the WBC title he claimed in a tenth-round knockout of countryman Miguel Berchelt last February 20 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. His lone successful defense marked his most recent appearance in Arizona, though mired in controversy. Valdez outpointed Robson Conceicao over twelve rounds at Casino Del Sol in Tucson last September 10, atop an event that was permitted to move forward after Valdez was cleared by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission who chose to ignore the results of a positive drug test produced earlier last summer through testing contracted by VADA.
Both belts became available when Stevenson (19-0, 9KOs) missed weight ahead of his eventual win over Conceicao this past September 23 in Newark.
The WBC belt was already spoken for, while Valdez (30-1, 22KOs) remained the highest-ranked available contender with the WBO.
Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs) was permitted to jump the line given his status as a two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titleholder. The streaking boxer from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico entered as the number-one contender and was permitted to vie for the vacant title per a ruling from the WBO during its recent annual convention this past October in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The fight will not yet impact the status of the WBO featherweight title, which Navarrete successfully defended three times since winning the belt in October 2020. His sixth-round knockout of Eduardo Baez on August 20 in San Diego saw Navarrete rally from a scorecard deficit in a fight where he struggled mightily to make weight. It was all but a given that his next fight—barring a unification clash—would take place at 130, with Stevenson’s scale-fail helping create a path towards Navarrete’s bid to become a three-division titlist.
Navarrete previously held the WBO junior featherweight title dating back to his December 2018 win over Isaac Dogboe in New York City, marking his U.S. debut. Their May 2019 rematch took place in Tucson, marking Navarrete’s lone career appearance in Arizona heading into his upcoming and a highly anticipated showdown with Valdez.
The inclusion of Valdez-Navarrete provides the Desert Diamond Arena with its fourth high-profile event in nine months, the last three of which come in a 14-week span.
The venue—previously known as the Gila River Arena—hosted Phoenix native and former two-time super middleweight champion David Benavidez in a rout of David Lemieux atop a May 21 Showtime card. The content creator and rising cruiserweight Jake Paul headlined an Oct. 29 Showtime Pay-Per-View event, scoring a late knockdown of Anderson Silva to seal an eight-round decision win.
BY JAKE DONOVAN