Erasing Arizona: Wilson ‘ready for war’ in US return

Melissa Woods |

Liam Wilson will return to the desert venue where he was controversially denied a world title.
Liam Wilson will return to the desert venue where he was controversially denied a world title.

Liam Wilson is preparing for a desert war when the Queensland boxer takes on Mexican brawler Oscar Valdez in a super-featherweight showdown in Arizona.

Wilson returns to Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale on Saturday (AEDT), little more than a year after his controversial loss to another Mexican champion Emanuel Navarrete at the same venue.

He is part of an Aussie take-over in the United States this week, with Tim Tszyu fighting 24 hours later in Las Vegas and looking to add the WBC super-welterweight belt to his WBO strap with victory over Sebastian Fundora.

Victoria’s Michael Zerafa faces another American, Erislandy Lara, for the WBA middleweight world title on the same card.

Wilson knocked down Emanuel Navarrete in their world-title fight in Arizona last year. (HANDOUT/TOP RANK)

Wilson floored heavy favourite Navarrete in the fourth round last February, but Mexico’s three-division superstar drew on all of his experience to turn a 10-second count into a 27-second recovery before going on to stop the Australian in the ninth round.

There were also issues with the scales during the weigh-in, the devastated Wilson labelling the ordeal a “p***-take” and “sabotage” before his appeal was inevitably rejected by the Arizona Boxing Commission.

As a result of last year’s experience, Wilson said he was ready for anything against former world champion Valdez (31-2, 23KOs), who suffered a points loss against Navarrete in Arizona last August.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” the 28-year-old said.

“In the past, he’s shown that he likes to go in there and brawl but he’s also been boxing and moving more in his last couple of fights.

“He has been in a lot of wars and I have that tendency as well. If a fight gets rough, I get dragged into it – so I’m ready for anything.

“I’m going to use my abilities. I’m going to stick to my game plan. But I’m also ready for a war.

“I feel much more prepared this time around … back to the same place, I’m much more familiar with the whole atmosphere.”

Austrlian boxer Liam Wilson at the punchbag.
The Aussie boxer has been acclimatising in Las Vegas ahead of his Arizona return. (HANDOUT/TOP RANK)

Navarrete is set to move up to lightweight to pursue his fourth divisional title, and while it’s still to be signed off, a win over Valdez could see Wilson become the WBO interim champion.

He could be elevated to recognised champion if Navarrete decides not to return to the division.

Having won two fights since last year’s heartbreaking defeat, Wilson (13-2, 13KOs) said he was no longer the “raw, inexperienced” fighter who was in the ring with Navarrete.

Valdez, 33, was present at that fight and knows the challenge that awaits him.

“Liam Wilson is a tough fighter,” he told Boxing Scene.

“I was there when he fought Emanuel Navarrete and he’s the kind of fighter who doesn’t give up.

“You can’t count out a fighter like that, so I’m taking this very seriously.

“I know it’s not going to be easy but nothing is impossible.

“After seeing him in there with Navarrete, and knowing my style, this will definitely be war.

“I’ve seen that he has a lot of heart when he fought Navarrete but we’re going to see who has more heart and who wants it more.”