Emanuel Navarrete became a two-weight world champion, as he picked up the vacant WBO Featherweight title with a unanimous decision win over Ruben Villa, who came off the canvas twice to give the Mexican a serious argument at the MGM Grand on Friday.
The first half of the contest looked as though it would be an early night’s work for Navarrete following two knockdowns, but Villa roared back into the contest at the back end of the fight, but ultimately, the two 10-8 rounds scored against him proved his undoing inside the Top Rank Bubble in Las Vegas.
A perfectly timed left uppercut in the opening round dumped Villa to the canvas with just under 30 seconds remaining, but the Californian made the count well enough.
Navarrete, who stopped Uriel Lopez in six rounds in Mexico in June, controlled the action in the early rounds, but Villa did have bright second and third sessions.
However, in round four the Mexican extended his lead, as he walked Villa on to a looping left hand that caught him high on the head to score a second knockdown of the night.
The strength and power of Navarrete was making the difference initially, but once his relentlessness began to drop, the 23-year-old edged his way into the fight, boxing well without ever seriously hurting the former WBO Super Bantamweight boss.
The previously unbeaten Villa took advantage of Navarrete, 25, seemingly cruising his way to victory by landing clean shots and moving well in the second half of the contest, which was allowing him to bank round after round.
In the end, the fight went to the scorecards, where the early knockdowns in favour of Navarrete cost Villa a draw.
Two scores of 114-112, and a third at 115-111 saw Navarrete confirmed as the winner, but there were plenty of things for him to build on as he hunts the big names in his new weight class.
Navarrete reflected on his win, and set his sights on a unification match with Leeds’ IBF champion, Josh Warrington.
“I knew that Villa was a fighter that moves a lot, and I knew that he was going to move even more once he felt my power,” Navarrete told ESPN post-fight.
“I didn’t get the knockout, but I got the victory. I’m very happy with this championship. It’s a reflection of all the sacrifices and hard work that I put in.
“I have my sights set on all the world champions at 126. I would love to face Warrington, I think our styles would make a great fight.”
Elsewhere, Kazakh Middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhanuly remained unbeaten with a massive second round knockout of Gonzalo Corina
As Corina (16-4, 6 KOs) decided to exchange, it proved a costly error, as Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5 KOs) detonated a monster left hook that knocked the Argentinian out.
Freddie Roach’s prospect, Elvis Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KOs), stopped Cameron Krael (17-17-3, 4 KOs) in three rounds in their Super Lightweight encounter, while Middleweight Lorenzo Simpson (9-0, 5 KOs) took a comfortable points win against Sanny Duversonne (11-1-2, 8 KOs).
Lightweight prospect Bryan Lua (7-0, 3 KOs) secured a shutout win over six against Nelson Colon (4-4, 3 KOs), and 19-year-old Featherweight Rashiem Jefferson (3-0) did the same against Steve Garagarza (2-3-1, 1 KO) over four.
Super Welterweight Kahshad Elliott (1-0, 1 KO) made a winning professional debut with a first round knockout win against Akeem Jackson (1-2, 1 KO), who was dropped twice by body shots.