Emanuel Navarrete had this date circled on his calendar for quite some time.
There is still a sense of pride heading into this weekend’s showdown with Australia’s Liam Wilson, with the vacant WBO junior lightweight title at stake this Friday on ESPN from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The February 3 date was reserved for an all Mexico-showdown between Navarrete and former two-division titlist Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23KOs), who withdrew due to a previous injury that hasn’t fully healed.
“I admit that I was disappointed when Valdez pulled out of the fight,” Navarrete revealed to BoxingScene.com. “But we have to move forward. I’m grateful for the opportunity to fight for my third world title. It didn’t take me long to move past the situation with Valdez.”
Navarrete-Valdez was formally ordered during the annual WBO convention last October in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The two were in advanced talks by that point, eventually agreeing to terms as Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs)—a former WBO junior featherweight titlist and current WBO featherweight title claimant—bids to become a three-division titlist.
The 28-year-old from San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico eagerly anticipated adding to his resume a blockbuster name such as Valdez, a two-time Olympian for Mexico who held the WBO featherweight and WBC junior lightweight titles.
Valdez was forced to withdraw in mid-December due to injury, leaving Navarrete’s co-promoters Zanfer Boxing and Top Rank to immediately secure an opponent. Wilson (11-1, 7KOs) was already in the U.S. training for a planned fight with Archie Sharp (22-0, 9KOs on the undercard of a January 28 Showtime event before accepting an offer to replace Valdez and salvage the show.
Navarrete managed to get over the opponent switch in a hurry, mindful of what’s at stake and who now stands in the way of achieving that goal.
“I’m just looking forward to this guy in front of me, Liam Wilson, because I know he wants to rip my head off and bring that title home with him to Australia,” acknowledged Navarrete, who has won 31 in a row, including a perfect 10-0 in major title fights. “I can’t allow that to happen, so that is all I’m focused on is beating this guy and becoming a three-division world champion.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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