After the fight: Emanuel Navarrete, featherweights, and love for the little guys

Emanuel Navarrete became a two-division boxing champion while Olympic medalist Nico Hernandez won his BKFC debut. The lower weights need love too.

It was a quiet weekend for boxing, but Emanuel Navarrete became a two-division champion while putting on a show on ESPN. He wasn’t the only boxer in the lower weights making noise.

On Friday, Oct. 9, Navarrete (32-1, 17 KOs) nearly knocked out a tough Ruben Villa who survived two knockdowns to finish the fight. Still, Navarrete won a unanimous decision and the WBO featherweight title. Navarrete campaigned as the WBO junior featherweight champion for nearly two years and is off to an electric start in his new division.

The featherweight division is loaded. Boxrec.com elevated Navarrete to the number two spot in their rankings.

Some of the names Navarrete leapfrogged include Gary Russell Jr., Jessie Magdaleno, and Isaac Dogboe, to name a few. After his victory over Villa, Navarrete called out Warrington in his post-fight interview.

Warrington in linked to Xu Can for his next fight, but nothing is 100 percent. Shakur Stevenson still appears in Boxrec.com’s ratings as does WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz, but both look like they’re moving up in weight permanently. Santa Cruz meets Gervonta Davis on Halloween in a lightweight pay-per-view bout but is versatile enough to crossover multiple divisions.

Navarrete’s style is raw and unwieldy, but he’s entertaining and willing to take risks. There’s nothing conventional about the way he fights. He leaped into the air during his contest with Villa while unloading stout hooks. Navarrete is a power puncher who’s willing to take shots to distribute his payload.

At 25 years old, Navarrete has a bright future as a featherweight. It’s also nice to see featherweights commanding boxing’s center stage south of the lightweight division, but the smaller divisions deserve more appreciation.

Top Rank is investing in Navarrette. Naoya Inoue is a star at bantamweight, but who else receives the spotlight below the featherweight division?

For every boxer like Emanuel Navarrete, who is set up to succeed, there are dozens of guys like Nico Hernandez have ability but are mistreated by boxing.

Super flyweights “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada are good draws, but not to the point where they command pay-per-view attention despite being amongst boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters. Okay, Gonzalez’s best days might be behind him, but he’s a legend, and Estrada is fire.

Amazing boxers inhabit the featherweight division and below, but they don’t receive enough love. Boxing and its fans decided long ago that size matters, but should it? Many of the previous names mentioned put on some of the best fights. Isn’t it about time that the little guys get more love and more money?

To prove that things are unequal in boxing, look at Nico Hernandez. Hernandez (7-0, 4 KOs) is an undefeated flyweight with the type of amateur pedigree you want in a future star. He had a deep amateur record of 94-5, multiple national titles, and won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. Instead of advancing towards a title shot, Hernandez debuted in the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC).

There’s nothing wrong with fighting in the BKFC. It’s a growing promotion and sport. It’s entertaining and competitive, but there’s no reason that a 24-year-old Olympic medalist and promising boxing prospect should receive more lucrative offers from the BKFC than major boxing promoters. It doesn’t make sense.

If you have the talent and gratify fans, you deserve to get paid and acknowledged regardless of your weight class. Hernandez is currently a promotional free agent. He hasn’t fought outside his home state of Kansas during his three-year professional career.

Navarrete has a platform because he’s signed to Top Rank. Hernandez is trying to string along fights and a living. He may find himself inside the BKFC circle again if boxing continues to turn its back on him.

From top to bottom, boxing’s divisions are filled with potential. Those prospects need to be nurtured and treated fairly to help advance their growth. That type of caring occurs in the heavier weight classes but isn’t carried over to the lighter divisions. The little guys deserve love too. Their numbers on the scale are smaller, but their hearts are big. Give them a chance and allow their skills to shine.

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