NEW YORK– Emanuel Navarrete and Liam Wilson hit the canvas in different rounds and their vacant WBO junior lightweight world title fight was a highlight of the new year Friday evening at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.The main event highlighted the ESPN televised Top Rank Boxing card.
And once again, Navarrete (37-1. 31 KOs) lived up to expectations against an opponent, a replacement for former champion Oscar Valdez, who had to pull out of the fight last month due to an injury to his back. Navarrete captured the title with a hard-earned ninth-round technical knockout victory against Wilson (11-2, 7 KOs) and joins an elite list of Mexican boxers who have captured titles in three weight classes.
That list includes the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.
In the early rounds, Navarrete controlled the fight by pushing the action with his awkward style. But in the fourth round, he was hurt badly by a left hook, which allowed Wilson to land several more shots and eventually drop Navarrete. The Mexican warrior was able to recover, but was hurt once again with a right hook in the sixth.
Navarrete did not lose sight of what was at stake and eventually began a vicious assault to the body, which weakened Wilson in the eighth round. He nailed Wilson with a right hand that sent him down hard. Wilson did his best to survive the onslaught, but Navarrete’s relentless punching was too much and forced the ref to call a halt to the fight at 1:57 of the ninth.
At the time of the stoppage, all three judges had Navarrete ahead (76-75 and 77-74).
“I’m made of a lot of work, strength, lots of heart, and the Mexican spirit that never lets me down,” Navarrete said. “Liam is a warrior. He was able to land a shot that stunned me a lot. Obviously, we tried to take things calmly. Fortunately, we were able to recover our calmness. We went out to recover a bit. We returned to 100%. And we began to engage.
“The satisfaction of winning like this is enormous. I think that I needed this test in order to be able to say my career is more complete. Now that I know that I can hit the canvas and get back up and keep fighting, I’m more than happy because I know that I can continue forward.”
“Tonight, I came up a bit short, and I’m disappointed,” Wilson said. “But I knocked him down in the fourth round, and I felt that the count was a bit long. We’ll have to review it and see what people think. He’s a true champion, though. I thought I won the fight in that sense because I think it was about a 20-second count. I’ll review it and see what happens there.
“I want to come back. I’m a true champion. This is my 12th fight, but no excuses. I love to fight, and I love challenges. I’d fight any other champion any day of the week. He’s a tough champion. With all due respect to him, he’s very awkward. But this is boxing, and stuff happens. All credit to him. I hope he goes on to do great things. I’ll be back. Make no mistake about it.”
In the cards after this, an eventual meeting with Valdez. The two fighters raised their hands in the ring, Valdez with the congratulatory words of encouragement and a battle of the two Mexican warriors could await at some point this year.
Rich Mancuso is co-editor and senior writer @Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube
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