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Ali, Norton, De La Hoya, and now Navarrete bring boxing to San Diego Friday

Written By | Oct 15, 2021
Emanuel Navarrete (L) and Joet Gonzalez pose during the weigh-in prior to their WBO World Featherweight championship fight at Omni San Diego Hotel Thursday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Emanuel Navarrete (L) and Joet Gonzalez pose during the weigh-in prior to their WBO World Featherweight championship fight at Omni San Diego Hotel Thursday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 14, 2021 – After a break of 28 years, boxing promoter Top Rank brings championship boxing back to San Diego on Friday, October 15, at Pechanga Arena.

Popular Mexican champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete will defend his WBO featherweight title against another popular young boxer, Joet Gonzalez of Los Angeles.

The event will be telecast live on the streaming network ESPN+ in its entirety, with seven bouts beginning at 5:30 pm PT/8:30 pm ET.

On February 6, 1993, Top Rank brought Oscar De La Hoya to the same venue for only his fourth professional fight.

Referee Pat Russell of San Diego stopped the fight against opponent Curtis Strong of Chicago in the fourth round for a TKO win. De La Hoya missed weight due to missing training due to minor surgery. De La Hoya came in at the heaviest of his career to date. There was a little extra leeway on the weight limit and some additional money in Strong’s purse for his trouble, which may have eased the pain of the beatdown.




See video of the young De La Hoya as a pro here – as well as ring announcer Michael Buffer before he became a world-famous celebrity.

Friday night, Russell, now a California Hall of Fame referee and judge, will return as a judge for the contest between Navarrete and Gonzalez.

The Sports Arena’s legacy in boxing isn’t extensive, but it is significant.

It’s where 29-year-0ld former U.S. Marine Ken Norton handed Muhammad Ali only the second loss of his career in an upset victory on March 31, 1973. Witnessed worldwide on ABC Sports as called by the notorious broadcaster Howard Cosell, Norton broke Ali’s jaw in the split decision victory.

Top Rank founder Bob Arum was Ali’s promoter and De La Hoya’s promoter for both San Diego events. Arum is still going strong at age 89 after five decades in business.

Navarrete vs Gonzalez brings Mexican style action

Emanuel Navarrete's awkward punching angles gave Christopher Diaz all he could handle during their fight Saturday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images Emanuel Navarrete defends

Emanuel Navarrete’s awkward punching angles gave Christopher Diaz all he could handle during their fight in April. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Navarrete (34-1. 29 KOs), age 26 from near Mexico City, will make his second title defense against southpaw Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs), who turned 28 on Tuesday and hopes to celebrate after a victory on Friday night.

“I think this is going to be a tough fight. He is a tough opponent. We are basically fighting in his hometown, closer to where he lives. Without a doubt, he’s a great fighter. He always comes forward. I expect a tough fight,” said Navarrete this week.

“It means everything. It’s my childhood dream.,” said Gonzalez. “I always wanted to be a world champion. That’s why I started boxing in the beginning. That’s the plan, to bring that belt back home.”

Navarrete is a formidable power puncher known for his aggressive, fan-pleasing style. But Gonzalez is especially motivated, fighting in Southern California after suffering his first defeat trying to win the same title in 2019 against Shakur Stevenson.

Local welterweights fight for bragging rights

San Diego Giovani Santillan (L) and former Tijuana resident Angel Ruiz (R) will have plenty of supporters in San Diego on Friday. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

In the co-featured fight, San Diego native Giovani Santillan, who is undefeated with a record of 27-0 with 15 knockouts, expects plenty of family and friends in the seats when he faces Angel Ruiz (17-1, 12 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico now training in Los Angeles. Santillan, a one-time sparring partner for both Timothy Bradley and Floyd Mayweather, hopes a good performance will yield world championship opportunities.

“This means a lot. It’s what we worked so hard for all my life,” said Santillan. My dad and I always talked about having these big shows in San Diego and representing our city. It’s very special for me to be fighting here in San Diego. I grew up close by here. To all my family and friends that are coming, expect the best version of me. I’m coming with everything.”

Ruiz will also have fans cheering him on from Tijuana and lived in Chula Vista for a year. He trains with renowned Los Angeles-based Manny Robles, who’s trained multiple world champions, including heavyweight Andy Ruiz, Jr. (no relation). “This is my opportunity,” said Ruiz.



Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities from San Diego, California. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.

Copyright © 2021 by Falcon Valley Group

Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.