As revealed last week, WBO featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete will face Liam Wilson for the sanctioning body’s vacant junior lightweight title in a February 3rd ESPN main event at Glendale, Arizona’s Desert Diamond Arena.
Wilson (11-1, 7 KO), the WBO’s no. 3 contender, steps in for the injured Oscar Valdez. As I said before, while he may not be quite as interesting an opponent as Valdez, he’s a genuine test for Navarrete (36-1, 30 KO) in a new weight class. Wilson avenged his lone career defeat about as decisively as one can, and if Navarrete’s power doesn’t follow him up, Wilson is more than able to play the role of landmine.
This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown,” Navarrete said. “Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”
Wilson said, “He’s a champion, a warrior, and a household name around the world, but now it’s my time. I’m coming to upset the parade. I’ve waited my entire life for this moment, and I won’t let it slip because it means more to me. I swore an oath to my father on his deathbed that I would one day win a world title for him. I’m looking forward to fulfilling this promise on February 3rd.”
A strong co-feature pits unbeaten super lightweight Arnold Barboza Jr (27-0, 10 KO) against Jose Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KO). Barboza’s coming off a good win over then-unbeaten Danielito Zorrilla, while Pedraza battled Richard Commey to a hard-fought draw and was in line to fight Teofimo Lopez before withdrawing due to illness.
Barboza is no. 4 with the WBO, so a victory could have him within spitting distance of the title once Josh Taylor either vacates or loses to Jack Catterall in their rematch.
Barboza said, “It’s a big card, and there will be a lot of eyes on us. Pedraza is a formidable opponent. He’s my toughest to date and has only lost to the very best. I’m looking forward to the challenge. At this point, anyone I face is standing in the way of my goal, which is to win a world title. I am going to make a big statement on February 3rd.”
Pedraza said, “I have recovered completely from the illness that obligated me to pull out of my fight with Teofimo Lopez. Right now, I feel 100 percent, and I know Arnold Barboza Jr. is one of the best fighters in the division. I’m sure this will be a great fight where I will reaffirm my level as an elite fighter at 140 pounds.”
Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr (4-0, 4 KO) opens the main card against TBA, and while he’s still just 23, he really should be past the TBA’s by now. He’s got the skill, he’s got the pedigree, and letting him brutalize bottom-of-the-barrel heavyweights is neither safe nor useful.
Andres Cortez (18-0, 10 KO) leads the prelims in a solid scrap with Luis Melendez (17-2, 13 KO). Scions Nico Ali Walsh (7-0, 5 KO) and Emiliano Fernando Vargas (2-0, 2 KO), the latter of whom looks like a genuine terror, will be in action in separate bouts, as will Xavier Martinez (18-1, 12 KO) and Lindolfo Delgado (16-0, 13 KO).