Can Emanuel Navarrete improve enough to become a unified champion?

Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO featherweight for the first time against Christopher Diaz on April 24. Will he show a new wrinkle to his game?

We know that WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete can punch. He has a 79 percent knockout rating for a reason. But can he box at a high enough level to become a unified champion?

That remains to be seen, but recent comments by Navarrete could provide some insight into his boxing mindset and what he has been working on ahead of his April 24 title defense against Christopher Diaz at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.

Navarrete (32-1, 27 KOs) is an intriguing young champion. At 26 years old, the fighter from Mexico has a lone loss on his record from early in his career and has a penchant for putting opponents to sleep. Back-to-back victories over Isaac Dogboe put him on the map and made him a world champion for the first time as a super bantamweight. His TKO in 12 over Dogboe in 2019 was particularly impressive.

That doesn’t mean that Navarrete doesn’t have flaws. He’s a pressure fighter that’s willing to take multiple shots to deliver one of his own. That has worked so far, but is it enough to beat fellow featherweight champions Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell Jr.?

Diaz (26-2, 16 KOs) isn’t the toughest opponent that Navarrete has fought, but he’s more of a technical boxer than Navarrete, and Navarrete knows it.

Emanuel Navarrete has plenty of offense but will he show improved defense against Christopher Diaz?

“He’s going to take advantage of his speed, but we have worked on that in the gym,” said Navarrete during a recent media call. “I believe he’s just going to move around, but I’m here to pressure him and get this win.”

Navarrete sent mixed messages with that statement. He knows what Diaz wants to do, but he suggests that he will rely on his typical pressure to wear Diaz down. That will probably work, but he’ll also take damage in the process. That might not work against Santa Cruz, Russell, or Can Xu.

While Navarrete’s words suggest that he’s not changing his style, he did say that he has worked to tighten up his technique. He suggested in an earlier report that he wants to improve his skills. He echoed that sentiment when questioned by FanSided.

“For this fight, we worked on defense, keeping my hands up, a little bit more technical style because we know that if I’m caught with my hands down, a big shot could come in, and that could be bad for us,” Navarrete told FanSided during the media call.

Don’t look for drastic changes from Navarrete. He established his boxing style long ago, and it’s working for him. The fact that Navarrete mentioned defense is a good sign. It means he knows that he needs to improve if he wants to capture other featherweight titles.

Expect Navarrete to show defensive acumen early in the fight but to become more offensive as the rounds go by. Old habits die hard, especially when a knockout appears imminent. Diaz has a good chin, but Navarrete will put it to the test.

Navarrete defeated Ruben Villa by unanimous decision in his previous bout, so look for him to push for a knockout against Diaz. The punch totals will tell if Navarrete’s defense has improved or if his progress has stagnated.

Watch Emanuel Navarrete vs. Christopher Diaz on Saturday, April 24, on ESPN. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET. You can also watch prelim bouts starting at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+. 

Source: FanSided

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