Seven months after he left the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, a beaten man, Oscar Valdez returned to the same ring and scored a redemptive win over Liam Wilson via seventh-round stoppage to win an interim 130-pound title on Saturday.

Valdez openly admitted that, after being battered and bruised on his way to dropping a unanimous decision to Emanuel Navarette last August, he was an emotionally broken man. In the dressing room after that defeat, he and his father sobbed as Valdez contemplated the prospect of retirement. As they absorbed victory over Wilson, Valdez admitted, “We’re crying again. But this time it’s out of joy.”

Wilson (13-3, 7 KOs), of Australia, began the contest well, using his height and length to keep Valdez at range, constantly touching him with jabs and looking to land uppercuts whenever the shorter Valdez closed the distance. Mexico’s Valdez (32-2, 24 KOs), in contrast, swung wildly with big, sweeping punches. And although several fell short, enough landed that by the end of Round 2, Wilson’s nose was already bloodied.

Those opening rounds would be as good as it got for Wilson, however. He has frequently acknowledged that he has long yearned to be a Mexican-style brawler, and that desire got the better of him as he allowed Valdez to step inside, choosing to try and outslug him in close quarters from the third round onward. Valdez was aiming to dial in his left hook, and although Wilson was able to sneak in uppercuts as Valdez dipped low, much of the offense was now coming from the man from Nogales.

Having evened up the contest with his aggression in three and four, Valdez in the fifth turned counterpuncher, daring Wilson to fight him, stepping backward and luring Wilson forward within range of his power punches. Wilson too readily took the bait, and in Round 6 Valdez landed a big counter left hook off the ropes, turning it into an explosive flurry and teeing off on Wilson at center ring.

In the seventh, Valdez did a masterful job of edging backward a half-step at a time as Wilson sought to come forward, always keeping the perfect distance to land his left hook.

And it was just such a hook that marked the beginning of the end. As it detonated on Wilson’s jaw, the Australian did a little dance. Valdez, sensing his moment, launched himself into a ferocious attack. A series of punches landed on Wilson’s head, the Australian somehow managing to stay on his feet but not firing back, prompting referee Mark Nelson to intervene at 2:48 of Round 7.

Valdez gave his foe immense credit afterward, revealing that “he almost had me a couple of times. He carries a punch.”

“It’s the way boxing goes,” said a crestfallen Wilson. “I tried to box for the first few rounds, but my heart got the better of me. I’ve got to learn from it. It is what it is. Oscar’s a great champion, and it’s an honor to share the ring with him. I’m 28 years old, it’s my 16th fight, I’ve got plenty more to give.”

For Valdez, victory was sweet relief. 

“I want to be an example,” he said. “In boxing, you might lose. In life, you might lose. But you have an obligation to come back strong.”