Central Point boxer Mike Wilson begins what he expects to be a busy year when he enters the ring as the main attraction tonight on a card at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville.
Along the way, Wilson — who will be touching gloves for the fourth time since an extended layoff — hopes to keep his professional record unblemished and continue on the path to the big time.
"We want to start trying to be really busy," said Wilson, who turned 30 last month. "We want to get the ball rolling on this thing and try to make some noise. I'm not getting any younger. We want to get it done when we can get it done."
The cruiserweight Wilson is 8-0, his most recent bout coming in early December, when he made quick work of Khuzaymah Al Nubu in Billings, Mont.
Now it's on to his opponent tonight, Rayford Johnson, of Longview, Texas. It's scheduled for six rounds, a step up from the four-rounders Wilson has been fighting.
They're the main event on a seven-bout "Fight Night" card that begins at 7 p.m. Only about 70 tickets remained as of Friday afternoon, according to a staff member with the Cow Creek Gaming and Regulatory Commission.
Johnson, 32, is 7-8. Three of his victories were by knockout, as were four of his losses.
As with most of his foes, Wilson has a size advantage. The two-time super heavyweight national champion trimmed down for the cruiserweight class, but at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he is big for that division.
Johnson is about 4 inches shorter, giving Wilson a decided edge in reach.
"He's a tough kid," said Wilson. "He's a pressure fighter. He'll come right at me. He's been in really tough (fights) as a pro. He's had some really good, quality opposition, and he's going to come to win."
Wilson said he worries little about the style of his opponents, noting that part of the game is "adjusting on the fly."
But he has no qualms with a smaller fighter in attack mode.
"It seems like they're easier to hit," he said. "They come right at you and they're there for the taking."
He'll be fighting for the second time in his last three bouts at Seven Feathers, which is as much of a home venue as he could hope for.
His manager, Bob Spagnola, of Houston, preaches the benefits of developing a home-crowd following, and the schedule for the foreseeable future will reflect that when feasible.
When he last fought at Seven Feathers in August, Wilson said he had to beg to get on the card, going so far, he said, as offering his purse to his opponent. The card drew about 1,300 fans, he said, and he enjoyed a partisan turnout as he defeated Harry Gopaul in a four-round unanimous decision.
It was good attendance for the casino, making Wilson an appealing draw for future cards.
Tonight's fight will be at or near the 2,000 it takes for a sellout, said Wilson, and the casino will benefit through increased room use, food and beverage sales and, of course, an uptick at the gaming tables and machines.
It figures to be a boon for him, too.
"People really get into it when they know you," said Wilson, who expects a large Rogue Valley contingent to attend. "It's a great atmosphere, like going to Vegas for a big fight. You really feel the electricity. That's how it was the last time around. People got really hyped up, especially when I came out. And they're nervous for you. You feel it and it lifts you up. If you get tired, they kind of carry you to the next level."
Wilson had a productive training camp, he said, averaging about 34 sparring rounds over the past few weeks. He routinely went 10 to 12 rounds each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He had a similarly good pre-fight routine before the December bout in Montana. It turned out to be a lot of work for only 11/2 minutes of ring time. That's how long it took him to dispatch Al Nubu.
But the training kept the rust off, and that will be important as he takes on more fights and increases the number of rounds.
Wilson plans to fight six to eight more times in 2013, gradually moving up from six rounds to eight, then maybe to 10 by year's end.
He's hopeful to benefit from Spagnola's considerable leverage, too, by landing on the undercard of some big shows. Spagnola has been in the promotion business for 30 years and has worked with nine world champions.
The only other fighter currently under his management, said Wilson, is one of them, Austin Trout.
Trout is the undefeated WBA super world light middleweight champion. He's scheduled to meet Saul Alvarez in April in a fight to unify titles. Alvarez holds the WBC light middleweight belt.
The only confirmed fight Wilson has on his schedule is another Montana fight at the start of summer. He's hopeful of getting one or two more before then.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org