Liam Wilson has flown halfway around the world for his first major title shot but will feel right at home in the ring.
On deck for the visiting Australian is a dangerous showdown versus Emanuel Navarrete. The two will meet for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title this Friday (ESPN, 10:00 p.m. ET) at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The bout is the first in the 130-pound division for Navarrete, a two-division and reigning WBO featherweight titlist who moves up in weight for his latest title opportunity. Wilson (11-1, 7KOs) has campaigned at junior lightweight or heavier throughout his five-year career and will at least have a natural size advantage over Mexico’s Navarrete.
“He’s a two-weight world champion, he definitely has more experience than me,” Wilson acknowledged to BoxingScene.com. “But he’s the one coming up to my weight division and he will find someone who is stronger than him for the first time in his career. I just have to make sure I’m fit and ready for twelve, which I am.
But the way I feel, I’m coming to knock Navarrete out.”
It remains to be seen if bigger is better during this Friday’s ESPN main event for Wilson. The 26-year-old Queensland native is listed at +650 according to bet365 ahead of his U.S. debut and first major title fight. In fact, he barely has more pro fights (12) than Navarrete—a -1100 favorite—has title wins (10-0 through two weight divisions).
Wilso has done his due diligence in preparing for the opportunity. He has spent the better part of the past two months training in Washington D.C. to acclimate to the time difference and obtain better sparring than he is normally afforded back home. He enters the fight having won his last two starts, including a second-round knockout of Philippines’ Joe Noynay last March to avenge his lone career defeat eight months prior. He has not fought since a ten-round win over former title challenger Matias Rueda last June 29 in Brisbane, though he was already preparing for a clash with England’s Archie Sharp before getting the call to replace an injured Oscar Valdez (30-1, 22KOs) for Friday’s title opportunity.
Most observers believe it is a mere formality that Navarrete—who has won titles at 122- and 126-pounds—will emerge as a three-division champion this weekend. Wilson is well aware of those dismissing his chances and the skills and intangibles he brings to this stage.
“I’m well aware of his accolades,” noted Wilson. “I feel confident in my belief that my boxing is far superior to his. I know he’s a tough fighter but it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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