Commentary

It's now or never for Navarro

Three chances at a world title, and three times Jose Navarro has come up empty. With time ticking on his career, will the fourth time be the charm?

Originally Published: February 15, 2008
By Tim Smith | Special to ESPN.com

Jose Navarro has fought for the super flyweight title three times. Three times he has lost decisions. Two of those fights took place in Japan; the other was in Russia.

Navarro gets another crack at the super flyweight title on Saturday night, this time on U.S. soil. But he is taking on Cristian Mijares, arguably the best 115-pound boxer in the world.

Navarro can't catch a break.

The Mijares-Navarro match is one of two super flyweight championship matches on the undercard of the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and on HBO PPV on Saturday night. Junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel will take on ex-champion Martin Castillo in the other match.

[+] EnlargeNavarro v Mijares
Chris Farina/Top RankNavarro, left, knows that he has to make good on his fourth crack at a title.
It is a rare occurrence for four of the top boxers in a division to be fighting in championship matches on the same card.

"It is one of the most talent-rich divisions in boxing," said Lou DiBella, who promotes Navarro and Mijares. "It's just chock-full of exciting fighters. You can make any number of quality matchups with all the guys in the division."

While Pavlik-Taylor holds the same promise of explosions as a Fourth of July fireworks display, the two super flyweight title matches could steal the show.

"That's something that is good for boxing fans," Navarro said. "It will give a lot of exposure to the division, which is something that's needed. Maybe the winners can fight each other."

Navarro hopes to be one of the winners.

"I'm hoping I can get this fight under control and get a win," Navarro said. "It will be great for my career. It's a great opportunity and I'm not going to let it slip by."

Unfinished Business
TV Lineup for Saturday's HBO PPV card (9 p.m. ET) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas:

• Junior lightweights: Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds, for Marquez's title/vacant Ring magazine title

• Featherweights: Steven Luevano (34-1, 15 KOs) vs. Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2, 19 KOs), 12 rounds, for Luevano's title

• Bantamweights: Abner Mares (15-0, 9 KOs) vs. Diosdado Gabi (30-3-1, 22 KOs), 12 rounds

• Junior welterweights: David Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KOs) vs. Ramon Montano (15-4-2, 1 KO), 10 rounds

-- Dan Rafael

Navarro is only 26, but his boxing career could be over if he doesn't pull out a victory over Mijares.

"That's something you look at, especially after having so many opportunities," Navarro said. "But I feel good about myself. I'm really looking forward to this fight because this could be my last chance."

DiBella has done a remarkable job getting Navarro world title fights. But even DiBella realizes that he can't keep pulling rabbits out of his promotional hat if Navarro comes up empty against Mijares.

"You only get so many bites at that apple," DiBella said. "I won't say a loss means he'll never get another title shot. But let me put it this way: It's going to be a long road back [if he loses against Mijares]."

Making matters worse for Navarro, Mijares went to Japan twice and beat Katsushige Kawashima, the man who handed Navarro his first defeat in a world title bout. Mijares stopped Kawashima on a 10th round TKO on Jan. 3, 2007, to win the WBC title in their last match.

On that exact date two years before, Navarro stepped into the ring against Kawashima in Tokyo to fight for a world title. After 12 rounds, Navarro thought he had done enough to walk away with the championship but the judges didn't see it that way. Navarro lost a split decision; one judge had Navarro winning every round (120-109) and two judges saw Kawashima narrowly squeaking by (115-114 and 115-113).

The decision made the Brinks heist look like petty larceny.

"It was tough being robbed like that, knowing that you won the fight but you didn't get the decision," Navarro said. "I was able to put the loss behind me quickly. I put it behind me after a couple of days. I was able to just look forward to fighting for another title."

Navarro put together two solid victories in 2006, stopping Miguel Del Valle on a third round TKO and Juan Alfonso Keb Baas on a seventh round TKO before getting another shot at a title. He had to go back to Japan to fight Masamori Tokuyama. He lost another 12-round decision. This time it was unanimous.

His one thought after the loss: "You just never know if you're going to get another opportunity to fight for a title."

That shot came a year later and on another continent when he took on Dimitri Kirilov in Moscow. It was a close fight, but Kirilov dropped Navarro in the third round. That made a difference on two of the judges' scorecards and it gave Kirilov a unanimous decision.

That loss to Kirilov last November made Navarro a three-time loser in world title matches. It is more chances than most boxers get in a lifetime. That fact is not lost on Navarro on the eve of his match against Mijares.

"I appreciate the chance to fight for a title again," Navarro said. "I believe I've worked hard enough and I've paid my dues in the gym to get this chance. I feel like having a chance to fight for the title in the United States and all the work I've put in at the gym will make a difference."

Getting past Mijares won't be easy. A native of Durango, Mexico, Mijares goes counter to the stereotypical Mexican brawler. He is a slick southpaw who can outbox his opponents if he has to.

"He's obviously a very good fighter. He has a lot of talent," Navarro said. "I look at every world champion as a very good fighter. But every fighter makes mistakes. I plan on taking advantage of his mistakes."

Tim Smith is the boxing columnist for the New York Daily News.