The Top Rank on ESPN 2023 schedule continues with a star-studded bill FRIDAY evening at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
The main event is a battle for the vacant WBO junior lightweight world title, as Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs) seeks to become a three-weight world champion against Australian upstart Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs).
The 10-round junior welterweight co-feature sees former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) attempt to end the unbeaten run of top contender Arnold Barboza Jr. (27-0, 10 KOs). In the ESPN-televised opener, heavyweight U.S. Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. (4-0, 4 KOs) battles James Bryant (6-2, 4 KOs) in a six-rounder.
Navarrete-Wilson, Barboza-Pedraza, and Torrez-Bryant will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m ET/7 p.m. PT.
The undercard — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT — features middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (7-0, 5 KOs) against Phoenix native Eduardo Ayala (9-2-1, 3 KOs) in a six-rounder and lightweight phenom Emiliano Fernando Vargas (2-0, 2 KOs) against Francisco Duque (1-1) in a four-rounder.
At Wednesday’s press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.
“For me and my team, being a three-division world champion will be the culmination of yet another goal in my career. We know that it won’t be easy. But, by doing that, I’ll feel that I have done something good in my career, and I’ll be satisfied with what I have achieved in my 10 years as a professional boxer.”
“My team and my corner have been fundamental to my development. They are people who are very humble. My family is very humble and reserved. More than being humble, it’s a way of life. I appreciate that part of me, and I always try to be a better person.”
“Liam Wilson comes with a strong desire to win the world title. And that’s why I’ve been focused on him 100 percent.”
“This is a chance to fulfill my dream and become a world champion. I’ve done 17 years of hard work for this moment. I’ve put in a lot of hard work. I’ve fought whoever they’ve put in front of me. I’m ready for Friday night.”
“I’ve taken one hard fight after another. Against Matias Rueda, I fought with one hand. I broke my hand midway through the fight. But I showed my resilience. The fight proved to myself, my country and the world that I have what it takes to become world champion and that I have to be in those fights.”
“This means everything. This is what me, my team, my promoter, my manager and my trainers have worked for. We’ve taken the risks and challenges, and I know that on fight night I have a tough fight ahead of me. Navarrete is a great champion, but I do plan on giving him the fight of his life. I’m going to win.”
Arnold Barboza Jr.
“We’ve been training really hard. We have a very tough fight in front of us. We are not looking past this fight. For this camp, we went back to the drawing board. We’ve seen our mistakes. We’ve been training hard, and we’re ready.”
“This is no question the biggest test of my career. We have nothing but respect for Pedraza and everything he’s done. We’re looking forward to this fight. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m looking forward to testing myself, and it’s going to bring out the best of me.”
“We trained at high altitude at Big Bear. Camp started there. My father did a great job of putting a plan together and bringing in the sparring partners that we needed. We’re ready to go.”
“Barboza is a great boxer. He is an elite boxer. By beating him, I will position myself towards a world title opportunity.”
“What is most important to me is to be able to create new fans, international fans as well. Wherever you go, those fans will recognize you and admire you. That makes one feel great. When it comes to my family, my family is everything. The first thing I do after finishing a fight is to be with my family.”
“I’m the kind of boxer who is always underestimated, but that’s a motivation to shut mouths.”
Richard Torrez Jr.
“I switched it up a little bit. I have some really good coaches at the Olympic training center. Billy Walsh, who is an Olympic head coach, and my dad. They communicate really well. There’s nothing like being up in the altitude, getting some training with a lot of elite guys. Being able to be there and get conditioned was really great.”
Nico Ali Walsh
“It’s tough to say who is my toughest opponent because everyone shows up differently come fight night. So, we will see. I don’t know if the crowd will be on his side. People like you when you’re winning. So, if you’re doing well, then the crowd will cheer for you.”
“Boxing is tough. It’s a love-hate relationship because obviously I love boxing. I see the outcomes of my work and it’s great. But it’s very tough. It’s not fun going through training camp. That kind of stuff is not fun. But the fight days make it worth it, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
“I really thought this would be at Madison Square Garden or Las Vegas. But when they told me it was going to be in [my home state of] Arizona, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. It’s just amazing being here.”
“I look at this like it’s just my next fight on my road. The ‘Ali’ last name is definitely a plus. It’s the fight of my life. In boxing, anything can change with just one fight. Regardless, it is a great last name, but I make things so that it has less pressure on me.”
Emiliano Fernando Vargas
“I’m blessed to be here. This is another opportunity to showcase my skills. I’m excited. There’s nothing like Arizona fights. I know my father fought down here. Arizona has amazing fans, so I can’t wait to feel that emotion. I’m pumped and ready to go. I’m ready for another statement victory.”