Emanuel Navarrete successfully defended his WBO featherweight title against Eduardo Baez, clinching the contest via a sixth-round body-shot KO in San Diego.
The Mexican (35-1, 30KO), a two-division champion, began sluggishly in what was his first bout for 10 months – the fighter’s longest ring absence in eight years.
Indeed, while he grew into the contest thereafter, two of the three judges in Pat Russell (49-46) and Zachary Young (50-45) had him behind on the scorecard prior to the knockout, with Dr Lou Moret having him narrowly ahead (48-47).
Despite Baez’s (22-2-2, 7KO) promising showing, demonstrating movement, strong defence and a chin, it was a vicious body shot by Navarrete that was to prove the challenger’s undoing.
Indeed, Navarrete appeared more purposeful at the start of round six, throwing his left hook with greater conviction, and though Baez defended against the attack, blocking shots to the head with a tight guard, he wasn’t prepared for the body shot which would suddenly end the fight.
A well-placed left hook to the body by Navarrete caused Baez to retreat and fall to his knee, and he remained on the canvas for the entirety of referee Jack Reiss’ 10 count to end the fight.
“That’s a very Mexican punch,” Navarrete said of the crucial body shot to win the bout.
“I don’t throw a perfect left hook like you’re used to seeing. But this one came out perfect for me. And you saw the result because not many guys can take that shot.
“I won’t deny that the 10 months away from the ring made it difficult. Taking that much time off and then melting down to 126 made it hard for me but I got it done.”
In response to talk of a potential fight with Shakur Stevenson, Navarrete added: “I want to sit back and enjoy this victory.
“After that, I’ll sit down with my team and together we will decide what’s the best next step to take.”
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