Top Rank Boxing is bringing the sport back to North America after an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most of its June cards have been at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but on Saturday, the company and Zanfer Promotions will be putting on a show from TV Azteca Studios in Mexico City.
The headlining bout is an on-paper mismatch between two Mexican fighters, Emanuel Navarrete and Uriel Lopez.
Navarrete is the WBO world junior featherweight champion, but the fight against Lopez is a 10-round, non-title fight at featherweight (126 pounds).
The fights at TV Azteca Studios can be seen on ESPN starting at 8 p.m. ET, with live-stream viewing available on ESPN+ (ESPN+ or ESPN cable subscription required).
Here's what to look for Saturday night.
Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) vs. Uriel Lopez (13-13-1, 6 KOs): Featherweight, 10 rounds
Carlos Ornelas (25-2, 14 KOs) vs. Edwin Palomares (12-3-1, 3 KOs): Featherweight, 10 rounds
Sergio Chirino Sanchez (14-1, 8 KOs) vs. Gustavo Pina (8-2, 5 KOs): Featherweight, 8 rounds
Ivan Armando Garcia (5-0, 3 KOs) vs. Roberto Palomares (5-4-1, 1 KO): Flyweight, 6 rounds
Full information available at TopRank.com.
Odds (via Oddschecker as of Friday)
Navarrete -8075 (bet $8,075 to win $100), Lopez +2000 (bet $100 to win $2,000)
Main Event Preview
Navarrete's claim to fame is that he's one of the busiest champions around.
After winning the WBO world title from Isaac Dogboe in December 2018, he defended the belt four times in 2019, and then a fifth time in February of this year. All of those wins came by stoppage.
Casual fight fans might remember him from his most recent scrap on the undercard of the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch. He stopped Jeo Santisima in the 11th round of a one-sided beating, per ESPN Ringside:
In an era where many titleholders enter the ring maybe two or three times a year, five defenses in a span of 10 months is admirable, especially in a sport where so many things can easily go wrong and knock you off your pedestal.
That said, Navarrete's opponents in 2019 were fairly underwhelming and not deemed serious threats, save for perhaps the rematch against Dogboe. Fans looking for him to take a step up in quality are going to have to wait well past Saturday night.
Lopez is simply a way for Navarrete to stay busy and adjust to a higher weight class. He has won 13 of 27 career fights, been knocked out three times and is on a three-fight losing streak.
Navarrete is an overwhelming favorite, and if the fight is anything other than an early- or mid-round stoppage for "Vaquero," it will be a surprise.
If we do see the bout go into the late rounds, it might simply be that the 25-year-old wants to get in some extra work as he looks toward a future at featherweight.
"We are thinking about maybe fighting this year at 122, then in 2021, going to 126," Navarrete said via a translator, per ESPN.com's Steve Kim. "As each fight passes, I feel that it's getting more and more difficult for me to make 122, because I'm still developing and growing physically."
Assuming the pandemic doesn't complicate the booking of fights over the next few months, we might see Navarrete defend his title a couple more times.
One opponent who would tempt him to keep off the few extra pounds is Naoya Inoue, an undefeated bantamweight champion and one of the top pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
According to Kim, Navarrete would be interested in meeting the Japanese fighter at 122 pounds but said "it has to happen soon."
So if you tune in on Saturday night, you'll see a handful of bouts featuring up-and-comers in boxing's smaller divisions and the potential for a rout in the headliner.
Navarrete's opponents may be underwhelming at times, but as his stoppage streak demonstrates, he doesn't take them lightly and is liable to deliver some fireworks.