Things That Can’t Stop Emanuel Navarrete

It’s fair to assume that there’s ample overlap between boxing and people who have dark senses of humor. So one could be forgiven for laughing when hearing Christopher Diaz’s trainer tell him just before the final round of his Saturday war with Emanuel Navarrete: “There is no pain.”

Buddy. Navarrete is nothing BUT pain! Easy for you to say.

Never mind that the tactic, caught by ESPN’s cameras, appeared to properly motivate Diaz to give it his all in one of the best 12th round “how could anyone manage to do this?” stretches since Tyson Fury came back to life after Deontay Wilder dropped him hard, back in 2018.

As demonstrated once more this weekend, nobody really just beats. you. up. in boxing like Navarrete. It’s not clear how, but Navarette opened a cut just underneath Diaz’s left eye at one point that stretched into the side of his nose, causing Diaz to look as though he was bleeding directly from his eye like a Japanese supernatural horror.

We also learned that it simply doesn’t matter HOW you fight Navarrete: You will still get beaten up. Most Navarrete foes end up cowering and trying to escape at one point under his leaping, awkward, busy punching style. Clearly, that doesn’t work.

Diaz never did that. He might have taken the 2nd round with clever timing and counterpunching over the top of Navarrete’s sweeping left hands, but of course, a lot of fighters like Navarrete take a few rounds to really heat up. A knockdown in the 4th — the result of a right hand feint followed by a jumping left uppercut — forced him into the firefight he vowed he’d be ready for, that he was expecting. So in the 5th, he began trading punches. Hell, he might’ve won the 6th doing it.

A rather quick point deduction for punching Navarrete in the back in the 7th (never mind that Navarrete repeatedly turned said back to Diaz during clinches) put Diaz on even more desperate ground. Besides, Navarrete had plenty to say about what Diaz could get done. The 8th brought two knockdowns, the first a  combo finished by a clubbing left to the noggin, the second a combo finished off by left to body along the ropes. That’s the round where Diaz got his freaky cut, too.

Navarrete scored a self knockdown in the 9th, thanks to being wildly off balance as he flurried from wacky angles. Yet the onslaught continued, leading to Diaz, by the 12th round, bleeding copiously from the mouth, also. It really was a heroic final stand from Diaz in the 12th. It’s a rare kind of thing, to see a fighter go completely for broke like that. The reason is that usually it gets someone knocked out. That’s what it got Diaz, when, trapped along the ropes and not firing back, he went down disconcertingly. His corner wisely halted the matter with less than a couple dozen seconds remaining.

So, yeah. You can’t beat Navarrete by brawling with him, either, which sounds like a real prima facie conclusion, don’t it? Nobody was going to know for sure until they tried, ‘spose.

What it’s probably going to take is Navarrete moving up from featherweight, which he’s threatening to do. He’s a big boy at the weight, just as he was at 122. Nobody’s been able to challenge him in either division, although you could speculate on how someone like Gary Russell Jr. would fare against Navarrete, if Russell didn’t fight once every four years and if the usual promotional friction wouldn’t get in the way. So sure. Move on up, Navarrete. Maybe a little bit bigger of a boy could decide how one solves this problem.


On the undercard, super middleweight Edgar Berlanga’s prodigious 1st-round knockout streak came to an end, even though he hurt and/or dropped Demond Nicholson in pretty much every round of the eight-stanza decision victory, including a faux knockdown with a punch/push. It’s pretty obvious Berlanga has authentic power. It’s the rest of his game that’s a bit on the “meh” side. Maybe he just needs pro rounds to sharpen his footwork, inside offense, speed, etc.

(Photo: Emanuel Navarrete decks Christopher Diaz)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.