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Puerto Rican boxing party: Navarrete vs Diaz plus Edgar Berlanga Saturday, ESPN

Written By | Apr 23, 2021
Emanuel Navarrete and Christopher Diaz pose during their final pre-fight news conference in Kissimmee, Florida. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc Puerto Rican boxing

Emanuel Navarrete and Christopher Diaz pose during their final pre-fight news conference in Kissimmee, Florida. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc

SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 23. 2021 – Puerto Rican flags and loyalties will be flying in Florida on Saturday as fans get to watch several Boricuan boxers take on challengers from around the world in a Puerto Rican boxing showcase.

Headlining the sold-out Silver Spurs Arena event in Kissimmee is two-division champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete of Mexico (32-1, 27 KOs), defending his WBO World Featherweight title against Puerto Rican challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (26-2, 10 KOs).

Emanuel Navarrete made a splash with his first victory over Isaac Dogboe in 2019. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Navarrete made his mark with two spectacular wins against Isaac Dogboe, not merely defeating him but humiliating him. The boxer normally stays busy, but the pandemic saw him getting just two wins in 2020, including his razor-thin October decision against solid prospect Ruben Villa. Navarrete relied on two early knockdowns in rounds one and four gave him the win. Navarrete also won a sixth-round TKO in Mexico, but pandemic restrictions rendered the official results a no contest. Diaz’s two losses were to Masayuki Ito and Shakur Stevenson, going the distance both times. He has won two solid decisions since then.

This will be Navarrete’s third fight at featherweight. The power he displayed against Dogboe at 122 pounds hasn’t quite caught up. Diaz has never been stopped, so the nature of the win for either man will be worth noting.




“I know he has been fighting at 126 and even at 130,” said Navarrete of Diaz. “I think it will be tough to hurt a fighter that has fought at higher divisions, but I believe I have the punching power to knock him out.”

Diaz promises to deliver for his Puerto Rican fans in the arena. “I go to the ring to perform, to show the people I can be a star. Navarrete is a great champion. It’s a pleasure for me to share the ring with him. We’re going to be in the history books as part of Puerto Rico versus Mexico.

Christopher Diaz got back in the win column last June after a loss to Shakur Stevenson. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Inc

“I want to tell Navarrete that I respect him as a person. He’s a humble guy, a family man like myself. It’s tough to become a one-time champion. I had my opportunity already, and I just hope he brings his best so we can give the fans a great fight.”

Navarrete hasn’t fought in front of fans since appearing on the Wilder vs. Fury 2 undercard in February 2020. He said he’d missed the fan ‘vibes,’ and thought most of the fans would be cheering for his opponent, he doesn’t mind. “I feel like the pressure is going to be on him because he needs to perform for his people, for his fans. I’ve always been a fighter that’s been on the road, fighting away from home. I feel like the pressure is on him.”

Diaz will be highly motivated, and he’ll put up a good battle. Navarrete has the tools and the skills to win, but if Diaz puts his heart into it, it could be a 50-50 classic.

All eyes on three minutes for Edgar Berlanga

Believe the hype about super middleweight Edgar Berlanga of Brooklyn. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

Believe the hype about super middleweight Edgar Berlanga of Brooklyn. Photo: Mikey Williams, Top Rank Boxing

The co-feature has gotten more attention than the main event because of the numbers involved. Will super middleweight Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga of Brooklyn maintain his perfect record of 16 wins by 16 first-round knockouts against veteran Demond Nicholson of Maryland (23-3-1, 20 KOs)? Those first three minutes of the first round should deliver the peak ratings of the entire ESPN broadcast.

Berlanga considers himself a Puerto Rican first and says every fight he takes on is for Puerto Rico. He wants to be the next big Boricuan superstar.

“With winning, all of that comes. The fame, the money. When you’re winning, and if you’re doing what I’m doing, all of that is going to come,” said Berlanga. “You build the brand, you build the image, and that’s how you make more money. But at the end of the day, boxing is my number one priority. And you have to win at the end of the day.”

Berlanga says Nicholson is the right opponent at the right time. He isn’t spoiling specifically for a first-round KO, but he said the same thing in December when he blew out Ulises Sierra, a fighter chosen to take Berlanga some rounds just like Nicholson.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day. I know he’s a veteran. He has a lot of fights under his belt. He got a lot of experience, and these are the types of fights I need,” said Berlanga.

Berlanga insists he trains for 12 rounds and has no stamina issues.

Nicholson originally got the call to take on Berlanga in December but turned it down due to the size of the paycheck. After a bit more discussion, things were set right for him, and the fight was scheduled. Nicholson has a stoppage loss to Jesse Hart in 2018, but he’s won all his bouts since then.

“I’m not mentally in the same place I was three years ago. I was facing some hard demons that I’ve pushed away and pushed to the side, overcame, and now it’s time to work. It’s my time to shine. It’s going to be a boxing lesson. That’s all I can tell you,” promised Nicholson.

Going more rounds will allow fans to see what the 23-year-old Berlanga offers and lessen the fixation on the knockout streak.

Undercard lineup will keep local fans happy



Josue Vargas and Willie Shaw at Friday's weigh-in for the Kissimmee, Florida card. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Josue Vargas and Willie Shaw at Friday’s weigh-in for the Kissimmee, Florida card. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Also fighting on the card is Puerto Rican native Josue Vargas (18-1, 9 KOs) taking on Willie Shaw of Vallejo, California (13-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout.

Lightweights Jamaine Ortiz of Worcester, Massachusetts (14-0, 8 KOs) and Joseph Adorno of Allentown, Pennsylvania (14-0, 12 KOs) put their undefeated records on the line for regional bragging rights. Adorno’s brother Jeremy also appears on the card in a four-round bantamweight bout.

Xander Zayas also flies the Puerto Rican flag in his bout against Demarcus Layton. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Top Rank’s sensational 18-year-old welterweight prospect Xander Zayas of Puerto Rico (7-0, 5 KOs) is sure to get a warm reception from Florida fans in his six-round bout against Demarcus Layton of Little Rock (8-1, 5 KOs). He went six rounds in a shutout for the first time in February and will be eager to get another knockout streak started.

Navarrete vs. Diaz and Berlanga vs. Nicholson will air live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Undercard action will stream live on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.

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 on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

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

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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.