LAS VEGAS -- Less than a month ago, junior featherweight world titleholder Emanuel Navarrete defended his belt, but in throwback fashion, he will be back in the ring Saturday night for another defense, this one against Juan Miguel Elorde.
That sort of quick turnaround is generally unheard of in today's era of boxing, but Top Rank promoter Bob Arum shrugged and mentioned how legends Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, who fought each other six times, once faced off twice in three weeks in 1943.
"If you're a fighter, you want to fight as much as possible. This kid [Navarrete] here, if he could, [if it wasn't for] injuries and so forth, would fight eight times a year and be happy," Arum said Thursday.
Arum was speaking at the MGM Grand at the final prefight news conference for the undercard of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury's fight against Otto Wallin.
Navarrete was especially happy to take on the assignment of making his third title defense -- all since May -- at T-Mobile Arena (ESPN+, 11 p.m. ET for the main card, with preliminaries beginning at 7:30) because he is Mexican and will be defending his crown on Mexican Independence Day weekend, a traditional date for top Mexican boxers to strut their stuff.
"I was very surprised [to get the offer to fight on short notice], but I knew it was a great opportunity, so we took it," Navarrete said through an interpreter. "My mentality was I had to train harder and not take a long break because we knew the opportunity that was in front of us."
On Aug. 17, Navarrete headlined a Top Rank card in Los Angeles and retained his title by third-round knockout of Francisco De Vaca. After the fight, Arum, who wanted to add a world title bout involving a Mexican fighter to the Fury-Wallin card, asked Navarrete in the ring whether he wanted to come back quickly and fight on the Mexican Independence Day weekend.
"After his fight, it occurred to me maybe, maybe, maybe we could convince him to fight on this very important Mexican Independence Day weekend," Arum said Thursday, sitting next to Navarrete. "So I talked to [Navarrete co-promoter] Fernando Beltran, and we got into the ring and we asked Emanuel [if he] would he be ready to fight, and the answer came quicker than your punch.
"He said, 'Absolutely! I'm not gonna celebrate this victory. I'm going into the gym. I want to fight on that weekend.' So he's a great, great warrior."
Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs), 24, said he knew there was a possibility of a quick return but did not know for sure when he entered the ring against De Vaca. He said he was really happy when Arum proposed that he return on Saturday's card.
"It was a surprise because it was only a rumor," Navarrete said. "It was nothing that was confirmed, so it was a surprise."
Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs), 32, of the Philippines, is the grandson of Filipino legend and International Boxing Hall of Famer Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, the longtime 1960s junior lightweight world champion. He took the fight on three weeks' notice and is excited to get his first shot at a world title in his 11-year career. The fight will also be Elorde's first in the United States.
"It's a big opportunity, a great experience for me. I grabbed it," Elorde said. "I'd like to thank everyone for giving me this chance. This is my dream, to become a world champion. I think it's coming to reality. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so when they called, we accepted the challenge because every boxer wants to be a world champion, and for me this is the opportunity."
Navarrete burst on the scene in December when he won a decision over heavily favored Isaac Dogboe to win the 122-pound belt and then knocked Dogboe out in the 12th round of an even more dominating victory in their immediate rematch on May 11. The fight with De Vaca followed, and Elorde is next.
"It [Arum] lets me, I want to fight in December, too," Navarrete said. "I will give it my all and show everyone I'm doing things the right way."
Navarrete's goal after Elorde is to unify titles.
"I want to do my best at 122 [pounds], and the biggest thing in the division is to unify titles," he said. "If my body permits it, I'm going to stay here [at this weight] and I want to unify titles. But if not, I am going to move up, and I have a great career in front of me."
Arum said junior featherweight world titlist Rey Vargas would be in attendance on Saturday night with a unification fight possible if Navarrete defeats Elorde.
That news was music to Navarrete's ears, who said to Arum, "Thank you for bringing him so he can see what he's going to face."