Less than a year ago, Emanuel Navarrete was a little-known fighter harboring dreams familiar to most boxers. He wanted to win a world title.
He got the opportunity to challenge heavily favored junior featherweight world titlist Isaac Dogboe in December and defeated him by unanimous decision to claim a 122-pound world title. For good measure, he knocked Dogboe out in the 12th round of an even more dominating victory in their immediate rematch May 11.
Now, Navarrete is moving past Dogboe into his second title defense, which will come against unbeaten Francisco De Vaca on Saturday in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET) at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, which is hosting its first boxing event.
That Navarrete has come so far in such a short period of time is not lost on him.
"The reality is that my life has changed a lot in these last eight months," Navarrete, speaking through an interpreter, said Thursday at the stadium during the final prefight news conference. "The fact that I have become world champion and that I have won over a wide margin to Isaac Dogboe, who came from beating Jessie Magdaleno, makes me very happy.
"I feel very satisfied with the results we have achieved for the hard work we have done in recent months."
But even with that sense of satisfaction, Navarrete (27-1, 23 KOs), 24, of Mexico, was quick to remind everybody that he was not looking past the relatively unknown De Vaca, who is in a similar position to where Navarrete was before his title shot.
"The truth is that it doesn't matter who is my opponent. I always prepare 100% for each of my fights, and this was no exception," said Navarrete, who has won 22 fights in a row since 2012. "We already did the hard work in the gym, and we are ready for a great fight. If De Vaca comes to fight hard, I am prepared to go even harder. I'm ready to give a great battle to all the fans."
De Vaca (20-0, 6 KOs), 24, a Mexico native fighting out of Phoenix, signed with Top Rank last August and will be taking a big step up in opposition. He will also be boxing in his first scheduled 12-round bout.
"I'm grateful for this opportunity. I'm ready. I wanted to fight for a world title since I was 5 years old, and now that we have the opportunity, we are going to make our dream come true this Saturday," De Vaca said. "Come Saturday, there will be a new world champ for Phoenix and Michoacan [Mexico]. I'm coming for that world title.
"I'm going to give everyone a great show. I've focused on preparing very well mentally because physically I'm always ready. You will see that come Saturday night."
Navarrete said his aim is to dispose of De Vaca and then unify belts. If he can't get a title-unification fight, he has an alternative plan.
"I've said it several times already: If the other champions of the division don't want to accept the challenge of unifying titles, I will be moving up to the featherweight division," he said. "If everything goes well on Saturday, maybe I will make another fight in the [junior featherweight] division, but if I don't get a unification fight, I would go up to 126 pounds."
Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs), 27, of Las Vegas, who lost his junior featherweight world title to Dogboe by 11th-round knockout in April 2018, then moved up to featherweight and is aiming for his second win in a row since the title loss when he takes on Rafael "Big Bang" Rivera (27-3-2, 18 KOs), 25, of Mexico, in the 10-round co-feature.
"[Fans can expect] the same Jessie Magdaleno that always brings a fight to the table, the Magdaleno that comes to fight and puts on a show for the fans," he said. "That's what I'm always aiming for, to please the fans and show everyone what Jessie Magdaleno is capable of.
"I don't take none of these guys lightly. Every opponent is difficult. He's fought great fighters. He's been in there with great fighters and done a hell of a job. I can't overlook him because he's here to put on a great show as well. He throws a lot of punches, and he's quick. That's what I am, and that's what is going to make a hell of a fight for this fight card.
"I'm hoping once this fight goes through, everything goes well, God willing we come out with the victory, I'm hoping it puts me at the top of the spots in all the rankings, all the titles, so I can come back and be a two-time world champion."
Rivera is just 2-3 in his past five fights, but the losses have come to top opposition in decisions to top contender Joseph Diaz Jr., unbeaten Joet Gonzalez (who is a mandatory challenger for a vacant featherweight title) and featherweight world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz in February.
"Jessie is a good fighter. I've seen him fight before. He's an aggressive fighter, but I'm just here to do my work," Rivera said. "I've been fighting against top-level fighters for a long time, so I feel confident and secure that whether it's against a world champion or a former champion, I'll put up a good fight."