Emanuel Navarrete vs. Ruben Villa: Fight preview, prediction, card, start time, live stream

Emanuel Navarrete, one of boxing’s busiest fighters and a recent world champion at 122 pounds, is ready to showcase his talents one division north entering Friday’s vacant featherweight title bout. 

Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs), a native of Mexico, puts his 27-fight win streak on the line when he squares off with Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KOs) for the vacant WBO 126-pound title recently left open by unbeaten Shakur Stevenson. The bout is the main event of a Top Rank card from the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. 

The opportunity to move up in weight saw Navarrete leave behind the WBO junior featherweight title that he defended five times in an incredibly short period of time. Counting his 2018 decision win over then-unbeaten Isaac Dogboe to claim the title, Navarrete enters his ninth trip to the ring in a span of just 22 months.   

“My body is doing a lot better. I’m growing a little bit more,” Navarrete said during Wednesday’s final press conference. “It was getting a little bit difficult making 122 but now going up to 126, I think I’m more prepared for that.

“With the current situation and the camp we’ve had, [my team] has done a great job. We’ve worked through it, and we’re ready for this match.”

The tall Navarrete scored stoppage wins in all five of his title defenses, which took place over a span of just nine months. He’ll be facing a slick boxer in the 23-year-old Villa, a native of California who is stepping up in class considerably despite recent wins over Alexei Collado and Jose Enrique Vivas to earn the title shot.

Villa has no problem facing fighters looking to knock him out and believes he possesses the right skill set to outfox Navarrete’s advances.  

“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. But I adapted well,” Villa said. “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.”

Although Villa has yet to defeat a fighter the class of Navarrete, he believes the level of challenge will force him to raise his game to a whole new level.

“I want to see the best Ruben Villa. 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 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 fighter. Yeah, I’m coming to win and coming to fight.”

Fight card

  • Emanuel Navarrete vs. Ruben Villa — WBO featherweight title
  • Janibek Alimkhanuly vs. Gonzalo Coria — Middleweights

Viewing information

  • Date: Oct. 9 | Time: 10 p.m. ET (main card)
  • Location: MGM Grand Conference Center — Las Vegas
  • TV channel: ESPN | Live stream: ESPN+ (prelims only), fuboTV


For as much as Villa’s confidence should help him entering this fight, he simply doesn’t possess the power to keep Navarrete off of him and that makes for a dangerous formula. 

Navarrete was huge for junior featherweight and he’s not likely to seem all that smaller at his new weight class. He’ll have a six-inch reach advantage over Villa and Navarrete’s ability to keep up a high work rate while swarming with flurries will likely be a problem from the opening bell. 

Pick: Navarrete via TKO7

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