Posted on 02/04/2023
By: Sean Crose
It wasn’t supposed to have happened like it did. Hard hitting Emmanuel Navarrete was supposed to make easy work of the widely unknown Liam Wilson in Glendale on Friday night, thus capturing the WBO junior lightweight title while setting himself up for a major battle with Oscar Valdez. And indeed, Navarrete did get the title and the likely match with Valdez. But he also got something else on Friday night – the fight of his life from Wilson, a man who didn’t get the memo he was supposed to be a cakewalk.
Wilson asserted himself in the first, moving forward and tossing off hard counters. Navarrete was able to work well behind his jab in the second. It looked, however, like Wilson might – “might” being the operative word – have been the stronger of the two combatants. Navarrete was able to close the round firing effective combinations. Although Wilson held his head upright, he seemed to be sturdy enough in the third to do so, something which might have been a sign of trouble for the hard hitting Navarrete.
By the fourth it was clear that – although he might be winning the fight by a slight margin – Navarrete was having trouble with Wilson’s southpaw style. That assertion became proven fact when Wilson, after a series of powerful shots, sent Navarrete to the canvas in the final minute of the round. Fortunately for Navarrete, he was able to beat the count and survive the chapter. Still, it was clear that Wilson, who was a last minute replacement for an injured Ortiz, was giving Navarrete a real problem.
Seemingly recovered in the fifth, Navarrete continued to throw gamely at Wilson, but it was clear that his punches couldn’t always reach his man. They were literally coming up short. Yet by the sixth, it started to become noticable that Navarrete’s pressure, combined with the punches he was able to land, was starting to wear on Wilson. The seventh was a grueling affair, and by the end, Wilson was hurt and bleeding. The eighth was a brutally tough round, one which Navarrete may have edged. It might have been early February but he and Wilson were grinding their way towards an early fight of the year contender.
An absolute missile of an overhand right sent Wilson down early in the ninth. The Aussie slugger got to his feet, but was clearly in trouble. Wilson beat the count, then, exhausted and with not much left, continued to battle on. The war wasn’t over yet. Navarrete was now able to get to his man with crunching shots, but Wilson kept on his feet and kept fighting. With Wilson on the ropes, a final combination sealed the deal for Navarrete, with the referee stepping in and stopping the battle.
It was some fight.