Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Emanuel Navarrete vying to become three-division titlist against Liam Wilson

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)

On Friday, Emanuel Navarrete will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Mexican boxing royalty when he faces Liam Wilson for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. With a victory, Navarrete, The Ring’s No. 1-rated featherweight, would join celebrated countrymen Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera as three-division titleholders.

“My team and I are very excited and happy about the opportunity of becoming world champion in three different divisions,” Navarrete (36-1, 30 knockouts) told The Ring through his handler, Alejandro Brito. “It will be very satisfying to win this fight, because it is not very usual for fighters to get these opportunities, and for that I am really flattered.”

To join the three-weight club, the aggressive Mexican punching machine will have to beat an opponent who he concedes could present plenty of issues.

“I think Liam Wilson is a very solid, tough rival,” said the former WBO junior featherweight and reigning WBO featherweight titlist. “[He has] more reach than what I have, which makes him a little bit complicated to fight. The distance between me and him will be crucial for me to be able to attack. His height can also be difficult, as well as his Olympic style, which is something I have always struggled with.”

Initially, “Vaquero” was scheduled to face former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder Oscar Valdez. However, Valdez suffered an unspecified injury that curtailed those plans.

Navarrete, who had been training at high altitude for two months at the famed Centro Ceremonial Otomí in Temoaya, Mexico, was looking forward to challenging himself against his more-known countryman.

“I did get a little bit disappointed, because I really wanted to fight with Valdez, but then I left all that behind and started focusing Wilson and on my third world title,” said Navarrete.

The 28-year-old actually feels things may have worked out for the better, and facing Wilson may serve as a prelude to facing Valdez in what he regards as a career-defining fight.

“I think it is beneficial for me to fight Liam Wilson before Valdez,” he said. “It allows me to analyze the division a little bit better.

“If I win, [a Valdez fight] could be a possibility. I will look for that fight, of course. It is something that I need, that my career needs to make it more solid.”

Brito, who also works with featherweight contender Mauricio Lara among others, is focused solely on the challenge at hand.

“The opponent is now Wilson, but the goal is the same,” said Brito. “Navarrete has everything to prove, that he is one of the most solid world champions today.”

Wilson had a solid amateur career before turning professional in June 2018. The Australian claimed the national junior lightweight title in his third outing by outpointing previously unbeaten Brent Rice (UD 10). The 26-year-old then stepped up his opposition with success until he lost his unbeaten record to Joe Noynay (TKO 5) in 2021. However, to Wilson’s credit, he gained revenge in a direct rematch, knocking out an overweight Noynay in two rounds. 

Last time out, Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs) edged past former world title challenger Matias Rueda (UD 10) for a WBO regional title that positioned him for a fight with Navarrete for the vacant title.

Navarrete-Wilson, plus undercard fights, will be shown on ESPN. The broadcast begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].