Ruben Villa always had a backup plan, whether it was waiting for his well-deserved title shot or for the schedule to free up from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In the end, things finally played out for a featherweight contender whom nobody is in a hurry to face.
It required his riding out some unnecessary drama, but Villa is back in position to contend for the now-vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight title. The 23-year old from Salinas, California has been offered the opportunity by the WBO to begin negotiations with Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (32-1, 28KOs), entering the equation after former 122-pound titlist Jessie Magdaleno withdrew from the ordered title fight.
Magdaleno was advanced in the rankings over Villa, who held the number-two spot in the WBO 126-pound set for all of 2020 until the most recent update this past July.
“When they moved me down to third, I was kind of disappointed—but I kind of seen how it happened that way knowing how boxing is,” Villa told BoxingScene.com. “But when Magdaleno decided not to take the fight for whatever reason it was, we were excited.
“I was already in the gym, we were training and sparring for months, waiting for an opportunity to come. Now it’s coming at the perfect time in our career.”
Villa (18-0, 5KOs) has been out of the ring since a 10-round unanimous decision win over Alexei Collado this past January live on Showtime from Shreveport, Louisiana.
The bout marked his latest step up in class, having been properly groomed from prospect to contender by Banner Promotions and Thompson Boxing Promotions, along with head trainer Sam Garcia. Dating back to an eight-round shutout win over unbeaten Ruben Cervera last January—also in Shreveport and on Showtime—the plan was to create a path that would lead to the title stage in 2020.
There existed for a moment the possibility of securing yet another such fight if it meant having to watch two other contenders vie for the title he has eyed all year.
“Our plan was basically, if the title shot didn’t happen. we would take on a Top 15, Top 20 kind of guy,” explained Garcia. “It’s the natural progression for where he’s been. We’ve been fighting pretty tough guys. Look at his past four guys. Luis Lopez is coming off three big wins in his last four fights. His only loss was to Ruben and he’s beaten two undefeated prospects plus Andy Vences this summer.
“Ruben Cervera and Jose Vivas were both undefeated when they fought [Villa]. They both also just won on Top Rank card, Vivas just won a big fight against an unbeaten prospect [Carlos Jackson]. Their only losses are to Ruben, who only lost a few rounds in his last four fights. He’s been ready for this title shot and we were prepared for another tough fight to get there if that’s what it took.”
Instead, it will now just take having to work out a deal with Navarrete’s camp, or else force the fight to a purse bid. Aiding in talks is the recent addition of world-class manager Rick Mirigian, best known for his work with unbeaten, unified 140-pound titlist Jose Ramirez (25-0, 17KOs) and who now serves as an adviser to Villa.
“We have full confidence in Rick,” insists Garcia. “That’s why we hired as an adviser on the team. We felt like, this is someone who can help us get over the top. My mom [Kathy Garcia, head of Garcia Boxing] is a hard negotiator, but is also enjoying being a grandma with my two nieces.
“Boxing is really a dog-eat-dog world, and we need a dog in our corner. That’s where Rick comes in. He’s been a godsend for us, getting more money in Ruben’s pocket and living up to his word.”
The next order of business will be to ensure that Villa now gets his title shot without any more funny business. Top Rank was prepared to stage a fight between Navarrete and Magdaleno this October on an ESPN platform from The Bubble in Las Vegas. With the right deal can come avoiding a purse bid hearing and Villa jumping in without anyone having to break stride.
“Every fight I train and work my ass off like it is a title shot,” notes Villa. “Now that it actually is a title shot, I will do a little more to make myself uncomfortable. I’m going to do that because I know Navarrete is coming to make things uncomfortable. We want to use that to be able to adapt quicker than he will.
“I also feel that I have a better chance of adapting to his style than he does of adapting to my style. I move a lot, and don’t feel that he’s fought anyone who carries the skills and ability that I do.”
Noel Galang – Kamao TV