Oscar Valdez is looking to get off the schneid Friday against Liam Wilson in a junior lightweight fight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona to headline an ESPN card. 

Valdez’s (31-2, 23 KOs) matchup against Wilson (13-2, 7 KOs) will mark the first fight for the former 126 and 130-pound champion since suffering a mostly one-sided beating against Emanuel Navarrete in August. 

“I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to step into the ring,” Valdez told BoxingScene. “I'm physically and mentally ready for this fight and to give the fans a great fight. My style and Liam Wilson's style will be a fan-friendly fight. I'm excited and anxious to showcase my skills again.

“We're not looking for easy fights. I'm looking for opportunities, and I love this fight. I'm excited to return and give the fans what they want to see.”

The 33-year-old Valdez hasn’t been able to build much momentum from his statement knockout win against Miguel Berchelt in 2021 to land the WBC junior lightweight title. In the following fight for his first title defense, Valdez tested positive for a VADA-banned substance before beating Robson Conceicao. 

Following the Conceicao fight, the two-time Mexican Olympian Valdez suffered a unanimous decision defeat against Shakur Stevenson in a 2022 title unification bout. Valdez got back into the win column by beating Adam Lopez in a rematch last May before falling to Navarrete, who outlanded Valdez 216 to 140 and disconfigured his face.

The 28-year-old Wilson, from Queensland, Australia, is certainly not a stepover. He engaged in a firefight against Navarrete last year, dropped the 130-pound titleholder with a vicious combination, but ultimately suffered a ninth-round stoppage loss.  

“Liam Wilson is a tough fighter. I have respect for him,” said Valdez. “We saw how he hurt Navarrete. He's the type of fighter that you can't get confident and loose with inside the ring because he carries that big shot … I've been studying his long-reach advantage. He has a beautiful left hook.” 

The Eddy Reynoso-trained Valdez is looking to climb back up the junior lightweight ladder – he sees himself fighting at 130 pounds for the long haul. But he is willing to make an exception for a fight at 135 pounds if that means landing a career-defining bout against Top Rank stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko. 

"It would be stupid for any fighter to leave that opportunity [against Lomachenko] – it's a dream fight for me. He's a world-class, pound-for-pound fighter. You always have a shot at it boxing. Every fighter who steps in the ring has a chance,” said Valdez. 

“This fight [against Wilson] means everything to me because whoever wins is a step closer to a world title fight at 130 pounds. This is my division … My plan this year is to become a world champion again. But I have to win this fight first. I'm mentally preparing like it's a world title fight.”

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.