Emanuel Navarrete vs. Eduardo Baez, Nico Ali Walsh vs.
Reyes Sanchez II & Giovani Santillan August 20
A fighting cowboy, a hometown hero, and the grandson of “The
Greatest” are set for a summer night to remember in San
Mexican star Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete will defend his WBO
featherweight world title in the main event against
countryman Eduardo “El Gemelo” Baez on Saturday, Aug. 20 at
Pechanga Arena San Diego. Navarrete also signed a new
multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank that will see
him fight on the ESPN family of networks in events promoted
in association with Zanfer Promotions.
The 10-round welterweight co-feature will see San Diego
native Giovani “Gallo de Oro” Santillan risk his unbeaten
record against a soon-to-be-announced opponent.
In a four-round special feature, undefeated middleweight
prospect Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, will
fight Reyes Sanchez in a rematch of their December 2021 bout
that Ali Walsh edged by majority decision. Ali Walsh will
fight in the historic venue that hosted one of his
grandfather’s most memorable bouts. In March 1973, Ali and
Ken Norton battled for 12 rounds at what was then known as
San Diego Sports Arena. Ali suffered a broken jaw and lost a
split decision in a major upset.
Navarrete-Baez, Santillan's welterweight battle, and Ali
Walsh-Sanchez 2 will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN
Deportes, and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
Ticket information for this event that will be promoted by
Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions, will be
“San Diego is a great fight town, and this is an incredible
card from top to bottom,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
“Emanuel Navarrete is always in tremendous action fights,
and Eduardo Baez is the type of opponent who will stand in
the center of the ring. Santillan is a fantastic young man
who drew plenty of support from the local fans last time he
fought here. Nico Ali Walsh has improved leaps and bounds
since turning pro last year, and I expect him to leave no
doubt against Sanchez this time."
Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs), winner of 30 consecutive bouts, is
a two-weight world champion entering his 10th world title
bout. A native of San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico, he emerged
on the world scene with a pair of title fight victories over
Isaac Dogboe, which started his run as one of boxing’s most
fan-friendly world champions. Following five junior
featherweight title defenses in nine months, Navarrete moved
up to featherweight and won the WBO title in October 2020
with a decision over Ruben Villa. He defended his title
twice in 2021, including last October’s 12-round barnburner
over Joet Gonzalez at Pechanga Arena.
"I am very excited to finally be back in the ring on August
20. The inactivity of these last eight months has served to
give my body the rest it needed and to reflect on many
things,” Navarrete said. “Now I'm coming back stronger
physically and mentally. I'm going to show that I'm ready to
fight any champion at 126 or 130 pounds. There will be a lot
of ‘Vaquero’ for a long time."
Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, is the WBO No.
7 featherweight contender. He recently moved up to
featherweight after a successful run at junior featherweight
that included a Mexican title and wins over three undefeated
prospects. In 2017, he lost a tight decision to Mauricio
Lara, who entered the title picture with his 2021 knockout
over Josh Warrington. Following a disputed majority decision
to Ra’eese Aleem last November, Baez moved up to
featherweight. In March, he edged Jose Enrique Vivas by
majority decision to earn a world ranking and a shot at the
Santillan (29-0, 16 KOs) is a 10-year pro who has seen his
career momentum take off since linking up with noted trainer
Robert Garcia in 2020. Last October, he made his Pechanga
Arena debut, bringing a raucous cheering section that
watched him outfight Angel Ruiz over 10 action-packed
rounds. He returned in April in Costa Mesa, California, and
knocked out Jeovanis Barraza in seven rounds.
“I didn’t know when I’d be back fighting in San Diego, so
when I heard the news, I was ecstatic. This shows we can
continue having big cards in San Diego, and I can’t wait for
all my fans to pack Pechanga Arena,” Santillan said. “I want
a world title opportunity soon. That’s the dream. I’d love
to fight for a world title, and defend my belt, in my
Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KOs) had no ring struggles until meeting
Sanchez under the Madison Square Garden lights. After a
dominant first two rounds, Sanchez rallied in the third and
fourth to nearly pull even. In January, Ali Walsh got back
on the knockout track with a second-round stoppage over
Jeremiah Yeager. Three months later, on the Oscar Valdez-Shakur
Stevenson undercard in Las Vegas, he sparked out Alejandro
Ibarra in the opening round with a left-right combination.
He enters the Sanchez fight with a new head trainer, Kay
Koroma, who works with (among others) Stevenson, rising
middleweight prospect Troy Isley, and female pound-for-pound
star Mikaela Mayer. Sanchez (7-2, 3 KOs), from Topeka,
Kansas, entered the first Ali Walsh fight with an unbeaten
record built primarily in his home state. He is coming off a
decision loss to unbeaten prospect Sharif Rahman, son of
former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.
“Despite winning our last fight, I feel like I must set the
record straight with Reyes Sanchez. He’s the only opponent I
haven’t knocked out, and I don’t see the rematch going the
distance,” Ali Walsh said. “Kay Koroma has already added so
much to my arsenal, and I can’t wait to perform in front of
the great San Diego fans and everyone watching on ESPN.”
Undercard action, streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+,
includes an eight-round junior welterweight showdown between
unbeaten Mexican standouts Lindolfo Delgado (15-0, 13 KOs)
and Omar Aguilar (24-0, 23 KOs). Delgado represented Mexico
at the 2016 Rio Olympics, while Aguilar has 15 first-round
knockouts on his ledger and second-round stoppages in his
last three bouts.
IBF No 1. featherweight contender Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2,
14 KOs) returns in an eight-rounder, while junior
lightweight contender Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11 KOs) looks
to bounce back from his first career loss against Alejandro
Guerrero (12-2, 9 KOs) in an eight-rounder.