Born and raised in Salinas, Ruben Villa represented the Central Coast when battling Emanuel Navarrete at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas for the boxing featherweight championship on Oct. 9. Sadly, Villa was defeated by Navarrete, but locals remain fondly proud of their city’s fighting power.
Before the fight, many gathered at the Monterey County Fairgrounds for a drive-in watch party of the match to show their support. Cars lined up across the dirt road of the fairgrounds and many sat on the hoods of their cars to view the match. Christopher Salas from KSBW 8 reported “it brought dozens of people from all over the Central Coast (who) were all excited to cheer for [Villa] regardless of the outcome” of the fight.
The people of the Central Valley appreciated Villa not only for his boxing skills, but also for his devotion to his hometown. Salas mentioned that Villa gave back to the community in various ways after going pro, including giving out masks to field workers, collecting toys, clothing and backpacks for homeless children and sponsoring after-school fitness programs at a local gym.
According to an ESPN report by Steve Kim, “Villa had some good moments in the second half of the fight where he boxed effectively, but he didn’t do enough to turn the tide of this contest.” Villa had craft with his southpaw swing, was fast on his feet and moved around the ring gracefully while Navarrete threw some very strong punches. Judges of the fight made a unanimous decision to give Navarrete the belt, but it was a very close match.
Villa received scores of 112 by two judges and 111 by the third judge and Navarrete received scores of 114 by two judges and 115 by the third, resulting in a championship decision declared by just a few points. Clearly, Villa remains as a force to be reckoned with and is a dynamite boxer.
Villa is only 23, and making it to the featherweight championship at such a young age – despite winning the match or not – is still fairly impressive. The up-and-coming boxer still has many matches ahead of him to showcase his quick feet and left-handed punches.
Despite his loss, Villa continues to be an icon for the city of Salinas, and locals are sure to support him on his next trip back home.