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Emanuel Navarrete To Fight Denys Berinchyk For Vacant WBO 135 Lbs Title, Shakur Stevenson ‘Retires’

Emanuel Navarrete To Fight Denys Berinchyk For Vacant WBO 135 Lbs Title, Shakur Stevenson 'Retires' featured image
WBO junior lightweight champion Emanuel Navarrete has been ordered to face #2 WBO lightweight contender Denys Berinchyk for the vacant WBO lightweight title. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

The WBO has ordered a title bout between WBO super featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete and Denys Berinchyk for the vacant WBO 135 lbs title. The WBO lightweight title was relinquished last year by Devin Haney due to his decision to move up to 140 lbs and vacate all his remaining 135 titles. In December, Haney went on to defeat the then-reigning WBC champion Regis Prograis to become the WBC super lightweight champion, thereby sealing the relinquishment of his lightweight titles and making the WBO belt, amongst other titles, available to be fought over.

Emanuel Navarrete’s (38-1-1, 31 KO’s) status as the WBO ‘super champion’ allows him to receive instant title opportunities upon moving up or down, and it had already been speculated that he would be attempting to move up towards lightweight as a result of this ‘super champion’ distinction. This now clearly appears to be the case, with him likely having notified the WBO of his plans to move up prior to WBO’s mandate.

The WBO super featherweight/junior lightweight title currently held by Emanuel Navarrete is expected to be vacated shortly before or after his future fight with Ukrainian contender Denys Berinchyk (18-0, 9 KO’s). Previously, Navarrete had suffered an injury following his fight with Robson Conceicao (17-2-1, 8 KO’s) which urged the WBO to ask for clarification. It was likely then that Navarrete revealed his intentions to move up to the sanctioning body, likely spurring the WBO to consider him for a world title opportunity following Haney’s announcement to move up in weight.

The WBO’s mandate to pit Emanuel Navarrete against Berinchyk appears to be done by merit. Navarrete is considered a breakthrough talent in the sport, hence his ‘super champion’ status, while Berinchyk is listed as the #2 contender on the WBO’s lightweight rankings. While Vasyl Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KO’s) is ranked #1, he is currently expected to face George Kambosos Jr. (21-2, 10 KO’s) in the near future for presumably the vacant IBF lightweight title.

Navarrete’s and Berinchyk’s teams are now negotiating for the mandated bout and are set to go to purse bid procedures if their initial talks fail. WBO has set a deadline of 15 days from January 29 to February 13 for these starting negotiations.

Interestingly, WBC lightweight champion Shakur Stevenson (21-0, 10 KO’s) has come out with news of being retired following the revelation of this news.

This is sickening. S*** is disgusting my n****!” Stevenson posted angrily on Twitter/X following a news report of Navarrete facing Berinchyk for the vacant WBO 135 lbs title.

I’m officially retiring from the sport of boxing. I’ll be in the gym forever perfecting my craft and helping the next generation become great and chase they dreams but I ain’t f****** with this weak boxing game.Stevenson continued to rant.

It is still unknown why Stevenson reacted so strongly to the news of Navarrete fighting Berinchyk. Presumably, he expressed his shock at Navarrete’s quick title opportunity given he had never fought at lightweight prior to this announcement, but Stevenson likely did not take into account that Navarrete’s WBO ‘super champion’ status affords him quicker opportunities.

Emanuel Navarrete To Fight Denys Berinchyk For Vacant WBO 135 Lbs Title, Shakur Stevenson 'Retires' image 1
WBC lightweight champion Shakur Stevenson has claimed to be retired, just barely two months after capturing the then-vacant WBC title in November of 2023. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

There are also indicators that Shakur Stevenson was interested in fighting Navarrete if he decided to move up; which would not be a difficult fight to arrange given both fighters are signed to the same promotion of Top Rank.

In this case, Stevenson would therefore benefit from questioning his promoter for not arranging a match with Navarrete instead, which could then have still taken place for the vacant WBO title; though it is not necessarily common for the WBO to make vacant titles available in a fight where there is already a champion of another sanctioning body.

Stevenson’s retirement status is still somewhat unclear as it might simply have been a post to vent his frustration at presumably not gaining the opportunity Navarrete. Prior to Stevenson’s announcement, it had been entirely unclear who he was fighting next as he was still coming off the backlash of his last fight against Edwin De Los Santos (16-2, 14 KO’s), which was held on November 16th last year.

Moreover, Shakur Stevenson can still fight the winner between Emanuel Navarrete and Denys Berinchyk―which would then give Stevenson the opportunity to unify as the winner will hold the WBO title. However, such prospects are too premature to discuss as both Navarrete and Berinchyk still have to complete their negotiations; which might not be completed until March, if not the backend of February by the latest.

The only way to confirm whether Stevenson will actually retire is by him vacating his recently-won WBC lightweight title, though this has not occurred as of yet. Until there are specific reports indicating Stevenson has relinquished his WBC title, it is safe to take the 26-year old fighter’s claims with a pinch of salt.