Boxing Pechanga Arena
Boxing at Pechanga Arena. Photo credit: @PRProSanDiego, via Twitter

Mexican star Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete defends his WBO featherweight world title in the main event against Mexicali’s Eduardo “El Gemelo” Baez on Saturday at Pechanga Arena.

In the 10-round welterweight co-feature, San Diego native Giovani Santillan risks his unbeaten record against Julio Luna.

In a four-round special feature, undefeated middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of the legendary Muhammad Ali, fights Reyes Sanchez in a rematch of the December bout in which Ali Walsh prevailed by majority decision.

Those three bouts will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 7 p.m. Saturday. The full card begins at 3:30 p.m. Tickets remain available and start at $35.

Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs), the winner of 30 consecutive bouts, is a two-weight world champion who will fight in his 10th world-title bout. The native of San Juan Zitlaltepec had five junior featherweight title defenses in nine months, then 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 his October 12-round victory over Joet Gonzalez at Pechanga.

“I am very excited to finally be back in the ring on Aug. 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 physical and mentally.”

Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs), 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 becoming the 126-pound king.

Santillan (29-0, 16 KOs), a 10-year pro, has seen his career momentum boosted by linking up with noted trainer Robert Garcia. Last fall, in his Pechanga debut before a hometown cheering section, he outfought Angel Ruiz over 10 rounds.

He returned in April in Costa Mesa and knocked out Jeovanis Barraza in seven rounds. He has big dreams for the fight scene in San Diego.

“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 hometown.”

Ali Walsh (5-0, 4 KOs) faces off with Sanchez (7-2, 3 KOs), from Topeka, Kansas.

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.

IBF No 1. featherweight contender Luis Alberto Lopez (25-2, 14 KOs) returns, while junior lightweight contender Xavier Martinez (17-1, 11 KOs) looks to bounce back from his first career loss.



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Ellen Bullock