Emanuel Navarrete will, in fact, chase gold in a fourth weight class next time out. Rather than face Shakur Stevenson in a long-brewing WBC title match, however, he’ll instead exercise the traditional WBO champion’s right to fight for the vacant WBO belt left behind by Devin Haney. The WBO has ordered him to face no. 2 Denys Berinchyk, giving them 15 days to come to terms.
It’s hard to overstate how overdue this step up is for Berinchyk (18-0, 9 KO). The 35-year-old shared an Olympic squad with Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk, but despite debuting just two years after them, has shown zero urgency to make a name for himself in the pro ranks. He hasn’t fought more than twice in a calendar year since 2017, racking up wins over solid-but-second-tier lightweights like Isa Chaniev and Yvan Mendy. His last fight saw him hand Anthony Yigit his third defeat in six fights on the Usyk-Dubois undercard.
He also knocked out Artem Lobov in a bare-knuckle fight, which I completely forgot about.
Anyway, the guy can fight, even if this is the sort of matchup he should have been chasing five years ago. Navarrete (38-1-1, 33 KO) has the frame for 135, but this is far from a layup.
A win here would hypothetically set Navarrete up for an in-house unification with Stevenson. Stevenson did just claim on Twitter that he’s retiring, but when has that ever stuck?