Emanuel Navarrete Gets Off Deck To Score Wild TKO
Emanuel Navarrete won a world title in a third weight class but had to go through hell to get it in an all-out slugfest with little known but big-hearted underdog Liam Wilson on Friday night.
Navarrete survived a hard fourth-round knockdown and took plenty of clean punches but rallied to drop and stop the 14-1 underdog Wilson in the ninth round to win the vacant the WBO junior lightweight title in an early fight of the year candidate in the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN headliner at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) February 4, 2023
Navarrete, who previously held the WBO junior featherweight title and is the reigning WBO featherweight titlist, has had problems making the 126-pound limit. He likely will vacate the featherweight belt and remain at 130 pounds.
If so, Navarrete’s next fight is all but set. He would square off against Mexican countryman and former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, who was supposed to fight him for the vacant title on Friday but dropped out due to a rib injury and was replaced by Wilson.
But before Navarrete would think about Valdez, who watched from ringside and then joined Navarrete in the ring after his dramatic triumph, he had to get through Wilson.
Navarrete Was In Serious Trouble Early
Many thought it would be an easy night for Navarrete but it turned out to be anything but as they battled hard for the entire fight until the violent conclusion.
“All I have to say is that after doing this I can say that the 10 years as a pro have been worth it,” Navarrete said through an interpreter. “My team and I have worked so hard to accomplish this (third title). In the future, the sky is the limit.
“I want to prove I am capable of earning those big world championship fights and the fact is I want those fights to prove to Mexico and the world what I am capable of.”
Wilson was up on all three scorecards following the fourth round in which he rocked Navarrete with a left hook — his best punch — that sent him reeling backward and then continued to pound him before dropping him with a right hand.
There was some controversy because Navarrete spit out his mouthpiece and got several seconds of additional recovery time, as referee Chris Flores put it back in but in the wrong position. By the time fight resumed the round was nearly over and Wilson could not follow up on his big moment.
“Tonight, I came up a bit short and I’m disappointed but I knocked him down in the fourth round, and I felt that the count was a bit long,” Wilson said. “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 at 20-second count. I’ll review it and see what happens there.”
Navarrete’s legs were still shaky in the fifth round but he slowly but surely got himself together, shook off the knockdown and won that round and the rest of the rounds on all three cards.
“Liam is a warrior. He was able to land a shot that stunned me a lot,” Navarrete said. “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 percent and we began to engage.
“The satisfaction of winning like this is enormous. This was an amazing victory because it tested me. I needed to know that I was capable of going to the canvas, getting up and come out the victor and now I know I am capable of doing that and doing it in a great fashion.”
Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs), 28, had a very strong sixth round as he landed hard body punches and was in attack mode, although Wilson punctuated it with a powerful right.
But Navarrete was undeterred. By the end of the seventh round, Wilson (11-2, 7 KOs), 26, who was fighting outside of his home country of Australia for the first time, was bleeding from his nose and he had taken some heavy shots along the ropes.
Early in the ninth round, Navarrete landed clean right hand on Wilson’s chin, dropping him to his side in the center of the ring.
Wilson beat the count but took huge punishment along the ropes, and Flores looked like he was close to stopping the fight.
After a brief reprieve, Navarrete forced Wilson to the ropes again and as he was unloading unanswered blows Flores stepped in and waved it off at 1 minute, 57 seconds, allowing Navarrete to win one of the belts that became vacant when unified champion Shakur Stevenson failed to make the 130-pound weight limit for a defense against Robson Conceicao in September.
According to CompuBox statistics, Navarrete landed 152 of 453 punches (34 percent) and Wilson landed 97 of 388 (25 percent). Navarrete landed most of his punches in rounds six through nine, when he took over the fight.
Wilson may not have won but he announced himself on the world stage and showed just how badly he wanted to fulfill a promise to his late father that he would someday win a world title.
How deep was his commitment to the fight? He flew from Australia to Washington, D.C., to train at Barry Hunter’s gym for top sparring and then had to leave camp and go to London for 10 days to get his visa in order before flying back to Washington to finish camp and then heading to Glendale for fight week. In all, he flew around 19,000 miles.
“I want to come back. I’m a true champion,” Wilson said. “No excuses. I love fighting and I love challenges. I’d fight any other champion any day of the week. (Navarrete is) 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. I love these hard fights.”
He got a very hard fight and so did Navarrete, the hardest of their careers, and it was one few will forget.