Liam Wilson has been here before. The Australian has been to Glendale, Arizona, before and fought a top Mexican, and it’s that experience that he thinks will make him successful this time around.

Wilson lost a thriller to Emanuel Navarrete at the Desert Diamond Arena last February and now, at the same venue, he is preparing to face Oscar Valdez.

They both can use Navarrete as a measuring stick, because Navarrete fought and beat Valdez at the Desert Diamond in August. Navarrete defeated Valdez on points, having climbed off the floor to stop Wilson in the ninth-round of a thriller.

Wilson has been sharpening his tools at the Split T Boxing Club, Las Vegas, and he is full of admiration for the veteran Mexican.

“He’s good. He’s very good. He’s been at the top of his game for many years,” Wilson said. “I still consider him at the top of his game, he’s coming off two defeats against two of the best fighters on the planet at the moment in Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete, and there’s no shame in losing to them. I was [in against] one of them, too, losing to Navarrete, so I know what he faced and it makes for an exciting match-up, comparing how I went with Navarrete and how he did.”

While 33-year-old Valdez is coming off two losses, Wilson doesn’t see him as a declining fighter, but acknowledges that timing is an important part of matchmaking and he feels the time is right to face the 31-2 (23 KOs) Valdez.

“I think so,” said the 28-year-old, co-challenger for the WBO’s Interim super featherweight title on Friday. “It depends what Oscar shows up as well. But for him to get to the top level of boxing, he’s got more than one dimension of fighting styles, so I’m expecting a war. He can box, he can brawl, I know I can as well. We will just have to see how the fight goes. He’s had hard fights and a big career. He’s 33 now. This is a sport where age doesn’t really do good to anyone, so we will see, but I also know that this is a chance for him to redeem himself, show the boxing world he still has it, that he’s still at the top level. I’m sure he’s looking to prove that.”

Wilson is 13-2 (7 KOs), and lives in Queensland, Australia. He made his debut in June 2018 and is bubbling with self-confidence.

He said Valdez was good, so was asked how good he is as a boxer?

“I’m good. I’m good. I’m getting better and better,” Wilson added. “I’m 28-years-old, I just turned 28, and I’m in my prime, or coming into it. I’ve got a lot of experience behind me and I’m getting better. I’m excited for this. Since the Navarrete fight, I’ve watched my boxing ability and we will see how it is on the 29th.”

It was Wilson’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, but there were no celebrations in camp. He hopes they will come on Friday night, and that – in the process – he will confound the critics who are tipping Valdez to land an important victory.

“I think they have it wrong. l think the odds are out by quite a fair margin,” Wilson stated. “If we go off our last performances against Navarrete, I think I did a better job of instilling more fear, my presence was different in the fight compared to his [Valdez’s], but I know what Navarrete is like to be standing across that ring [from]. He’s very awkward, and I could see Oscar felt that as well, so I think, for me, this is what makes the fight exciting. We’ve both experienced what it’s like to fight him.”

Wilson enjoys the big occasions and he is one of the key figures in the Australian boom in big-time boxing, with high-level fighters coming out from Down Under en masse, including the Andrew and Jason Moloney, Jai Opetaia, George Kambosos and Tim Tszyu in a golden age for the sport in Australia. 

“A hundred per cent,” Wilson agreed. “I think with how boxing’s going back in Australia with the top fighters fighting out of the country, putting on good performances, winning world titles… Tim Tsyzu, Jai Opetaia, the Moloney brothers… I think, ultimately, it’s lifting the boxing level as well. People look up to us and it’s sort of paving the way for the younger generation coming through and I think the best is yet to come out of Australian boxing. 

“We’ve got some good fighters currently, but it’s like a production line. Everyone’s looking up to us, and once we go, they’re coming through. It will be very interesting to see where it ends up in the future. We have a good platform in Australia now, we didn’t have that a few years ago, so we are very fortunate.”

Wilson hopes to be a positive influence back home, but admits he looked further afield for inspiration. While there’s a solid list of Australian greats, featuring the likes of Johnny Famechon, Jeff Fenech, Barry Michael, Lionel Rose and Kostya Tszyu, when Wilson was growing up he looked to the best overseas boxers for motivation. 

“It was international fighters for me. Boxing was never really big in Australia when I turned professional,” said Wilson. “My promoter at the moment [Matt Rose at No Limit Boxing] was just starting and it’s taken off since then and I’m proud to be a part of it. But international fighters, [Juan Manuel] Marquez, [Erik] Morales, Micky Ward, Joe Frazier, Sergey Kovalev, I think that was the case for most Australian fighters. We had our idols and people we looked up to and in most cases, they were out of the country. 

“We had some good fighters in the past, Jeff Fenech etc, and there have been plenty more, but in modern years, we’ve looked elsewhere.”

And while he learned from past greats, he has learned plenty from his 15 pro fights to date, and specifically from taking Navarrete into the deep waters.

“Heaps, man,” he said of the lessons of that loss. “Obviously going into that fight I had 13 pro fights and I was young, I was raw, I was so new to the environment as well, [it was] my first 12-rounder, and the way the training camp is structured, my fitness… I’ve had to work on everything, and it was a big eye opener to my boxing career and where I need to be. 

“And here I am again fighting in another tough fight and that, ultimately, has prepared me for this. I’m young, I’m looking to get better, and I wasn’t going to let a loss at 27-years-old derail me. I knew I had so much more to give, and here I am again, fighting in another tough fight. I knew these fights were going to be on this horizon, so there’s no point dwelling on anything. Get better.”

Now he is living a dream. Sure, there are sacrifices along the way, being away from his family in Australia when he trains and fights in the U.S, although his partner and their two kids joined him in America this week. 

Wilson can see himself moving up from 130lbs over time, and he is excited by what is to come.

“I think I have options out there to move up if I want to. I’m still quite young, 28, I’ve still got a fair few years left in me,” he said. “This [fighting] is what I love. The love has never diminished over the years. I’ve been in some tough fights, I’ve been through the ups and downs and the love is still there, so I might as well just go hard. I always imagine being in these tough fights and after this I’ll look at getting back in with a good opponent. 

“Getting over here to America [has been his career-high to date]. As a young kid that was what I wanted to do, and ultimately be in these tough fights, so it sort of seems surreal that I’m here, doing the training camp here about to fight here again for the second time. I would never have imagined it as a young kid. Obviously, I had dreams and aspirations, but for it to come true and come real, it’s like, ‘Wow’. And I’m not a world champion yet, so I still have a lot of work to do and I’m enjoying being on this journey.”