4 Takeaways from Top Rank on ESPN Card

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2020

4 Takeaways from Top Rank on ESPN Card

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    Jam Media/Getty Images

    Immediately following the UFC event on ESPN on Saturday was a Top Rank on ESPN card featuring WBO junior featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete taking on Uriel Lopez in a non-title bout at featherweight in Mexico City.

    Navarrete, 25, has been one of the most active titleholders in boxing since winning his belt from Isaac Dogboe back in December 2018. But other than his immediate rematch against Dogboe six months later, he has yet to face the kind of opponent who could launch his career into the stratosphere.

    Still, he's one of the most tenacious boxers on the planet, a violent and destructive force who seems to be on his way to establishing his name among the top fighters in the sport.

    Winning seven fights in 13 months tends to do that, and hailing from boxing-crazed Mexico doesn't hurt, either.

    Navarrete stopped the overmatched Lopez in the sixth round. Here are four takeaways to consider now that the fight is over.

Navarrete's Best Qualities Make Him Best Type of Boxing Champ

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    Emanuel Navarrete possesses qualities that make him a dream to promote.
    Emanuel Navarrete possesses qualities that make him a dream to promote.Jam Media/Getty Images

    Navarrete's best qualities are what make him easy to promote. He's young, hungry and throws lots of punches in his fights.

    He's a promoter's dream in that way.

    Moreover, he gets hit enough to make fights fun, but he's a more than good enough fighter that Top Rank could make him into a big star so long as it continues to build him the right way.

    It will do that.

    Additionally, Navarrete seems to be dedicated to staying active in the sport, and he has big plans for his future that include fighting the top belt holders at 122, 126 and 130 pounds.

    Navarrete might not be a big star yet, but he's on his way to becoming one. Facing opposition like Lopez in Mexico won't go down in history as much more than a footnote when analyzing the type of less-than-stellar opposition he faced after winning his first world title, but at least he's fighting. And it's fun to watch.

Will Top Rank Pit Navarrete Against Prized Prospect Shakur Stevenson?

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    Will Navarrete face the "next Floyd Mayweather" anytime soon?
    Will Navarrete face the "next Floyd Mayweather" anytime soon?Handout/Getty Images

    Would Top Rank pit Navarrete against Shakur Stevenson, the fighter ESPN's Cameron Wolfe recently touted as the "next Floyd Mayweather"?

    Both have the same promoter and fight on the same TV network, so it seems like it could be something on the horizon in the near future.

    Navarrete holds a belt at 122 and is expected to move up to 126 soon. Stevenson holds a title at 126 and could be on his way to 130.

    Still, it seems like these two young champs either are or should be on a collision course.

    The good news is that any fight Top Rank puts Navarrete in will probably be entertaining. He's basically a tornado of punches.

    How else could that go?

    The better news is that Navarrete has the exact type of style that could bring out the best of the defensive-minded Stevenson.

    Before Mayweather outboxed the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, he had to get by guys like Jesus Chavez and Jose Luis Castillo in the lower weight classes.

    Navarrete might be just the fighter to put this whole next Mayweather thing to the test.

The 122-Pound Elephant in the Room

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    What about the lineal champ?
    What about the lineal champ?Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    Top Rank and its television partner, ESPN, are all about the concept of the lineal boxing championship unless it doesn't serve its promotional purposes.

    How else can one reconcile the fact that there was no mention of lineal 122-pound champion Guillermo Rigondeaux on Saturday night as the pundits labored to describe how hard it was to find a good opponent for the WBO titleholder Navarrete?

    Never mind that the 39-year-old has been the king of the junior featherweight division since defeating Nonito Donaire more than seven years ago and that he's had to move up and down in weight because nobody dares to face him at 122 pounds.

    It makes sense that Top Rank would want to promote Tyson Fury as the lineal heavyweight champion. It makes sense that ESPN would want to go along with it after making such a hefty investment in that fighter.

    But it doesn't make sense to only promote boxing's lineal champions sometimes. This made-up concept either matters or it doesn't, and all ESPN needs to do is pick a side and stay on it.

Boxing Continues Losing Ground to MMA in Frustratingly Fixable Ways

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    UFC Fight Night clearly outshone boxing Saturday night.
    UFC Fight Night clearly outshone boxing Saturday night.Handout/Getty Images

    The juxtaposition of Top Rank's boxing card directly following UFC action on ESPN arguably showed just how far behind the top boxing promoter in the world has fallen in its race against other combat sports.

    It's strange to consider that both Top Rank and UFC have the same television partner yet present such vastly different products on fight nights. It has nothing to do with the differences in the sports. Rather, UFC offers sleek, clean and sharp programming with little dead air and even less downtime between fights.

    But these Top Rank cards? These mostly seem like watching an awkward Zoom call wherein Bernardo Osuna, Mark Kriegel, Timothy Bradley and Andre Ward are all four watching the same show but nobody seems to know who should be talking.

    And then there's the vast gulf between what happens on boxing undercards and UFC cards. Of the 10 fighters competing on the televised portion of the Top Rank card, nine of them were people most fans had never heard of before—and most boxing writers only pretended to know about.

    The other one, Navarrete, was a sitting world champion in a gimme against a fighter with as many losses on his record as wins.

    Once Navarrete was finished with him, Lopez was 13-14-1.

    Compare that to the six hours of programming that preceded the Top Rank card on ESPN, and it's hard to see how boxing is supposed to compete for new fans.

    That's super frustrating. Boxing is a lovely product on its own merit. Its pageantry, history and aesthetics are unparalleled in the world of combat sports. But everything else around it right now fails to do it justice.

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