Tuesday, January 31, 2023  |


Emanuel Navarrete to face Liam Wilson for vacant junior lightweight belt after Oscar Valdez withdraws

Emanuel Navarrete nails Eduardo Baez during his final defense of the WBO featherweight title in August 2022. (Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Emanuel Navarrete will face Liam Wilson for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title on February 3 after Oscar Valdez withdrew with an undisclosed injury. The fight will take place at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

The news, first reported by ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, was confirmed Tuesday by a Top Rank source.

Navarrete (36-1, 30 knockouts) is moving up in weight after winning the WBO featherweight belt in October of 2020. He defended the belt three times, with the most recent defense coming in August, when he knocked out Eduardo Baez in six rounds.

Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs) is rated one spot below Valdez at no. 3 by the WBO, and has won two straight since being stopped in five rounds by Filipino Joe Noynay, including a second round knockout over Noynay to avenge the loss.

The belt is one of two which Shakur Stevenson was stripped of after missing weight ahead of his unanimous decision win over Robson Conceicao in September.

Wilson, 26, will be fighting outside of his native Australia for the first time as a professional, but had plenty of experience fighting abroad as an amateur.

Navarrete, 27, of San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico is rated no. 1 by The Ring at 126 pounds, and had previously reigned as WBO titleholder at 122 pounds.

Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) would likely be first in line to challenge the winner between Navarrete and Wilson after recovering from his injury. The 31-year-old had previously held the WBC junior lightweight title, but lost it in a one-sided decision loss to Stevenson in a unification bout this past April.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].