WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete is primed for a testing encounter when he defends his crown against former world title challenger Joet Gonzalez at the Pechanga Arena in San Diego on Friday.

In a division featuring WBA Regular champion Leigh Wood, IBF title holder Kid Galahad and WBC king Gary Russell Jr, the all-action Navarrete must negotiate a potentially difficult night to tee up a potential unification against one of his rival champions.

The swashbuckling Mexican (34-1, 29 KOs) now feels like a genuine 126-pounder, having moved up from the super-bantam division last year.

“I feel very strong. I’ve seen changes in my body for the best and I think this division is the best for me,” said Navarrete. 

“I think this is going to be a tough fight. He is a tough opponent. We are basically fighting in his hometown, closer to where he lives. Without a doubt, he’s a great fighter. He always comes forward. I expect a tough fight.

“Moving up is not something that I’m considering now. I’m just focused on the fight with Joet. What I’ve heard is comments, but I’m not really thinking about moving up.”

Los Angeles’ Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs) lost a 2019 WBO title clash with Shakur Stevenson on the cards, but feels better equipped second time around.

“Sometimes it’s just not your night,” said Gonzalez. “I work hard and train hard for every fight. I don’t take nobody lightly. It just simply wasn’t my night. I rebounded with a win over [Miguel] Marriaga, and I think I showed the public I’m here to fight the best out there.

“It’s not an easy fight. It’s a tough fight. Navarrete has a style that’s very unique, very hard to figure out, and that’s why he’s a champion. I trained really hard, and I’m coming with everything. I’m planning on leaving Friday night with that belt.

“It means everything. It’s my childhood dream. I always wanted to be a world champion. That’s why I started boxing in the beginning. That’s the plan, to bring that belt back home.”

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.