Predictions: Joshua vs Helenius, Navarrete vs Valdez, more

Fighting

We’ve got a great main event on ESPN this weekend, as Emanuel Navarrete faces Oscar Valdez for Navarrete’s WBO 130 lb title, and we also have a big name in action on DAZN, as Anthony Joshua takes on Robert Helenius in London.

So who wins the main events, plus a couple more fights?

(If you’re wondering why we’re not doing the SHO fights for picks, it’s because two of them aren’t all that interesting and there’s too little useful footage on Melvin Lopez.)

Emanuel Navarrete vs Oscar Valdez

Scott Christ (68-29)

A really intriguing fight, because the Liam Wilson bout showed us that Navarrete could have more trouble at 130 than he did at 122 or 126, which is normal and natural. Fighters are getting bigger, and frankly, there’s more and more tape (or MP4, I guess) on Navarrete every time he fights, and he’s been fighting regularly on TV for years now. His awkward style is more scoutable every time he fights.

Valdez is good, but I haven’t been terrible enthused with a performance of his for a long time now. When he thrashed Miguel Berchelt, that came with Berchelt barfing in a bucket to make weight and looking like double-fried nothing in the ring. Oscar has never really looked great at 130 other than that one, and he’s had three fights since. Shakur’s one thing, but laboring through wins over Robson Conceicao and Adam Lopez is another.

I do think Valdez can win, though. Just saying there are more questions than confidence on both sides for me going in here. I’m going to go with Navarrete. Valdez just looks a little shopworn at 32 and he’s been fighting his own natural instincts as much as anything since the Quigg fight. I think it’ll be competitive and good TV, but “Vaquero” gets the W, he’ll just have a little bit more in the tank and a little bit more will to see out the rough spots and overcome. Navarrete UD-12

Wil Esco (76-21)

On paper I feel as though this is a fight Emanuel Navarette should have the tools to win given his height and reach advantage. That said, Navarette fights in an unorthodox style that doesn’t really see him make the best use of those advantages at times. As for Valdez, he’s a very talented fighter who I think already has a lot of mileage on him given the damages he’s taken in the past. I don’t think Valdez is a shot fighter or anything, but all those dings add up over time. I’m gonna lean towards the fighter I think is a little fresher right now. Navarrette UD-12

John Hansen (67-30)

Tough pick between two solid talents willing to put on a show, and that’s usually a recipe for an excellent fight. Valdez is more proven at the weight than Navarrete, who has only mouthpieced his way past one opponent there. But Valdez is relatively small for 130 lbs, so how much does his experience there really matter?

I keep coming back to Navarrete’s eagerness to mix it up. He’s not a conventional guy, not a tactician, and his physical advantages are only useful so long as he keeps the fight at range. How long do we really think that will last? And when things inevitably move in tight, then what happens? No disrespect to Liam Wilson, but if he could rock and almost finish Navarrete, Valdez can do it, too.

Either Navarrete uses his physical advantages with a patience and rigor he’s never really shown us before, or Valdez will get the opportunities he needs to end the fight early. Give me the Valdez we’ve seen before over the Navarrete we never really have. Valdez TKO-9

Patrick Stumberg (73-23)

I would like to offer our loyal readers a bit of insight into my thought process:

There’s a bit more to it, namely the fact that Navarrete spent the first half of the Wilson fight stuck in the mud, but that’s where I’m at right now. It really boils down to whether Navarrete can deal with the check hook; he’s crafty enough to keep Valdez at the end of his punches, but that flash of mortality has me worried.

I’ve flip-flopped back and forth, but I’ll be an optimist and lean towards Navarrete. Now that he’s had some ring time at 130, I expect a return to his usual output. Between his length and maneuverability and Valdez’s inability to hurt opponents who aren’t clearly compromised, I like him to overpower Valdez to a competitive decision win. Navarrete UD-12


Anthony Joshua vs Robert Helenius

Scott Christ (68-29)

I would have picked AJ to stop Dillian Whyte. I will pick him to stop Helenius. I expect a more aggressive Joshua than we saw in January, in part because AJ has a lot of pride and ate up a lot of criticism. Whether trainer Derrick James says to direct it his way or not, that’s not going to happen with the average fan or even pundit; the shots will be lobbed at the fighter, not the trainer most fans don’t know much about.

Helenius has never been a top-flight heavyweight and won’t become one on Saturday. He had his career revival when PBC made the careful management mistake of putting Adam Kownacki in with him. Respect to the “Nordic Nightmare,” but he can’t beat Joshua. Joshua TKO-4

Wil Esco (76-21)

Late replacement opponents sure can be hell on the A-side at times. I don’t think that’ll be the case here, however, as I just don’t believe Robert Helenius is on quite the same level as Anthony Joshua, and I’m not sure about his ability to fight well on such a quick turnaround at 39 years old. Sure, Helenius might not have taken much damage at all last weekend, but his body will surely be feeling the effects once he’s back in there with a big boy who can hit much harder than his last opponent.

I think Helenius will come to give it a go, but I just don’t think it’ll be nearly good enough to knock off Joshua who’s motivated to work his way back to the top. Helenius won’t be hard to find, so I suspect this ends somewhere just after the halfway point. Joshua TKO-7

John Hansen (67-30)

Robert Helenius: Pay-Per-View Star, and now a guy cashing two paychecks in a week. He’s really made the most of his wins over Adam Kownacki, and I salute him for it. Time (and journeyman Joe Cusamano) appear to have proven that Kownacki is more thoroughly cooked than the Griswold family Christmas turkey, but Helenius is still riding that wave into another main event.

Deontay Wilder needed less than three minutes to dispatch him. Let’s assume Helenius is super sharp and ready this time out, given that he literally just fought last Saturday, and assume he can triple that performance against Joshua. Joshua KO-3

Patrick Stumberg (73-23)

I unreservedly respect Robet Helenius. He was the next big thing, got blown to bits, then clawed his way back into contention. I’m genuinely glad he’s getting back-to-back paydays against Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.

Doesn’t mean I think he’s got a chance, though. He’s still slow, fragile, and hittable. Getting chin-checked by Wilder could happen to literally any human being on the planet, his other knockout defeats are less forgivable. Even a mid-identity-crisis Joshua should be able to out-box him and ultimately clip him for the finish. Hell, I’d favor Joshua even if I knew he’d sell out for the KO like he did in the first Andy Ruiz fight. AJ ends his knockout drought before it can hit three years. Joshua KO-4


Quick Picks!

Derek Chisora vs Gerald Washington

  • Scott: Chisora TKO-6
  • Wil: Chisora TKO-8
  • John: Chisora UD-10
  • Patrick: Chisora TKO-3

Filip Hrgovic vs Demsey McKean

  • Scott: Hrgovic TKO-5
  • Wil: Hrgovic TKO-3
  • John: Hrgovic TKO-6
  • Patrick: Hrgovic TKO-9

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