WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete halted game Puerto Rican contender Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz in the final round at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida, on Saturday evening.

Mexican puncher Navarrete registered knockdowns in the fourth, eighth (twice) and final round. Diaz was deducted a point in the seventh for a rabbit punch and suffered a cut left eye in the eighth. His spirited challenge came to an end in the last session when trainer Nelson Rodriguez halted the fight with 11 seconds left after Diaz had hauled himself off the canvas for a fourth time.

Navarrete (34-1, 29 KOs) said afterwards: “I think we did put on a worthy performance [of Mexico vs. Puerto Rico] because ‘Pitufo,’ I knew he was tough, I knew he was strong. And I knew he could hit hard, but he surpassed all my expectations. He brought out all the best in me and so I’ve got a lot of respect for Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz. 

“I was really impressed by ‘Pitufo’ because every time I hurt him, every time I dropped him, he came back stronger. He was a beast in there because he kept coming at me. He kept getting better even though I kept hurting him, and as the fight progressed, you’d expect him to get weaker but he kept getting stronger. I just couldn’t understand it. So I have the utmost respect for Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz and what he did tonight.”

Diaz (26-3, 16 KOs) added: “I’m very disappointed. I wanted to win. It’s a title shot. But next time. He’s a great fucking fighter. He hit hard. We went to war. I made my best fight. I was in shape. Everything was good. 

“I’m not a weak fighter. I always bring my heart with me. I came here to fight. I said I want to box but that guy, he’s a problem. We come here to fight, too. He caught me. My coach loves me like a son and he stopped the fight.”

On the undercard, Edgar Berlanga’s streak of 16 straight first-round knockouts drew to a close as he was taken the full course by Maryland’s gutsy Demond Nicholson. Super-middleweight banger Berlanga scored knockdowns in the second, third, fifth and eighth, but the gritty Nicholson survived (23-4-1, 20 KOs). Berlanga rises to 17-0, 16 KOs.

Berlanga said: “I feel amazing. It’s kind of fucked up I had to go to the judges with all the people here. I know they wanted a first-round knockout, but I enjoyed getting the experience.

“It was an awesome experience for me. I caught him with an amazing shot at 10 seconds of the last round. I wanted to get him out! But I didn’t, but I got the experience, especially in front of my Puerto Rican people. It was good.”

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.