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Boxing Fight Weekend: What to watch, picks for Oct. 9-10

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4-min read

Villa steps up vs. Navarrete

Emanuel Navarrete has long been seen as a star in the making by Top Rank. On Friday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, he’ll get his best chance to prove that.

He’ll meet unbeaten Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KOs) for the WBO featherweight title in a bid to be a two-weight world champion.

Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) upset Isaac Dogboe on Dec. 8, 2018, to win the WBO super bantamweight title and then made five defenses in the next 14 months.

He took a non-title bout against Uriel Lopez in June and stopped him in the sixth round, setting himself up for the bout with Villa on Friday.

At 5-7, Navarrete was tall with great length for 122 pounds, but making weight was becoming a problem.

“My body is doing a lot better,” he said. “I'm growing a little bit more. It was getting a little bit difficult making 122, but now going up to 126, I think I'm more prepared for that.

“For now, we’re pretty much ready. We’re ready for this weight. We're ready for this fight on Friday night, so I think we’re ready to go with what we have. After this fight, we're going to keep moving forward.”

Navarrete said the coronavirus pandemic didn’t interfere much with his preparations.

“My team has done a great job,” he said. “We’ve worked through it and we’re ready for this match.”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JUNE 20: Emanuel Navarrete fights against Uriel Lopez during an unofficial fight At TV Azteca on June 20, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. The event is organized and broadcasted by TV Azteca as part of a TV Show. Sporting events are not permitted in Mexico as a preventive measure to halt the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Jaime Lopez for Zanfer/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Emanuel Navarrete fights against Uriel Lopez during a non-title fight on June 20, 2020 in Mexico City. (Photo by Jaime Lopez for Zanfer/Jam Media/Getty Images)

This is a big step-up for Villa, who has to find a way to blunt Navarrete’s aggressiveness. Navarrete is a big puncher and if he can get off a high volume of shots, it’s going to be a problem for Villa.

Villa knows he’ll have to create angles, use his legs and disrupt Navarette’s rhythm.

“My last couple of fights, they’ve been aggressive guys who come to beat me and think they’re going to get me off my game plan,” he said. “But I adapted well. We always had good game plans and stuck to game plans, and now we’re here fighting for a world title. I feel like I'm ready. I feel like he’s beatable, and my style is the one to do it.

“He’s an aggressive guy who throws 100 punches a round. I feel like it’s just going to bring the best out of me to do my job as well as I can.”

Villa said his confidence has blossomed as he’s won those last several fights.

“I want to see the best Ruben Villa, but I haven’t even seen him yet,” Villa said. “I feel like Navarrete will bring it out of me. I’m just excited to perform and, like I said, show you guys what I got. I feel like I’ve been slept on. Maybe a lot of people think I don’t belong here, but I’m going to show everyone I'm an elite 126-pound fighter. Yeah, I’m coming to win and coming to fight.”

Per BetMGM, Villa is currently +165 with Navarrete a -200 favorite.

Old friend Lemieux back at it

Veteran David Lemieux, who was notably stopped in a middleweight title fight in 2016 by Gennadiy Golovkin, will take a tune-up Saturday in Canada at super middleweight.

He’ll meet unheralded Francy Ntetu at Gervais Auto Centre in Shawinigan, Quebec. Lemieux has won three in a row since getting trounced by Billy Joe Saunders in a bid for the WBO middleweight title on Dec. 16, 2017.

Ntetu has lost three of his last four, including TKO losses to former world champions David Benavidez and Marcus Browne.

British title at stake

Liam Williams will take on Andrew Robinson on Saturday in London for the British middleweight title. Williams is 22-2-1, with both of his losses coming against Liam Smith.

Robinson is 24-4-1 with seven KOs, but he’s met some interesting, shall we say, opposition. He stopped Eric Nwankwo in the second round on Sept. 28, 2019, but Nwankwo’s record at the time was 1-5 entering the bout.

He won a split decision over 41-0-1 Damian Jonak on April 6, 2019, and scored a four-round decision over 5-46 Darryl Sharp on Feb. 16, 2019.

Kevin’s picks

  • Emanuel Navarrete -200 on BetMGM to win over Ruben Villa. Also, Navarrete by KO/TKO over Villa.

  • Elvis Rodriguez by knockout over Cameron Krael.

  • Liam Williams by decision over Andrew Robinson.

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