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Emanuel Navarrete believes the extra weight will help him against Ruben Villa

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Former WBO super bantamweight champion Emanuel ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete 31-1 (27) believes the featherweight division is better suited to his growing body.

The 25-year-old Mexican, who stands at 5-foot-7, will meet undefeated former amateur star Ruben Villa 18-0 (5) for the vacant WBO 126-pound championship at ‘The Bubble’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada this Friday night.

“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,” Navarrete said.

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“My body is doing a lot better. I’m growing a little bit more. It was getting a little bit difficult making 122, but now I’m 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 is the more experienced fighter at the elite level, winning a pair of fights against rising star Isaac Dogboe in back-to-back fights in 2018-19 and successfully defending his WBO 122-pound strap five times.

But the 23-year-old Villa, who hails from Salinas, California, has warned fight fans and pundits not to underestimate him.

“There have been a couple of restrictions and stuff due to COVID, but I’ve been in the gym, I’ve been active. It hasn’t gotten in the way of me training and my team’s training. Yeah, we trained hard, another hard camp, and we’re ready for Friday night,” the southpaw said.

“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. 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.

“I feel like you’re going to see a bigger and better Ruben Villa this Friday.

“Running with the mask on, seeing the field workers working during the pandemic and fires, it’s just another motivation for me to win this fight and bring Salinas its first world title. I just can’t wait to show you guys what I got.

“I want to see the best Ruben Villa. I haven’t even seen him yet. I feel like Navarrete will bring it out of me. I’m just excited to perform and, as I said, show you guys what I got.

“I feel like I’ve been slept on. Maybe many 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.”

The main support bout will feature undefeated Kazakh middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhanuly 8-0 (4) up against Argentinean Gonzalo Gaston Coria 16-3 (6) in a 10-round bout.

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