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Wilson headlines fairgrounds fight card

Mike Wilson won't lack motivation when he enters the ring in the featured fight on an amateur boxing card Saturday at the Jackson County Expo.

The super heavyweight from Central Point, a two-time national champion who was stripped of a third consecutive title last year after testing positive for cannabis, will face the man he beat in the ring but to whom he subsequently relinquished the 2006 crown.

Wilson, 24, will fight Jonte Willis of Tacoma, Wash., on the 10-bout card in the Olsrud Arena. The Region 12 Boxing Championships will actually begin with a handful of four-round semifinal fights starting at 7 tonight. Admission at the door is $5.

General admission for Saturday's finals, which will include champions from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, is $10.

Wilson defeated Willis, 23-12, in the U.S. National Championships last March 11.

Two months later, Wilson had the title taken from him. He completed an anti-doping educational program, had a three-month suspension deferred and has been back representing USA Boxing since a December trip to Italy.

Still, the title remains Willis'.

"I was actually supposed to fight him in the Pan Am box-offs, but he couldn't go," says Wilson.

Wilson was awarded a walk-over victory in the box-off finals in January, but that didn't satisfy him.

"I was really looking forward to it to get a little revenge," Wilson says. "He's going around talking about how he's the 2006 U.S. national champion and what-not. But we'll prove it in the ring when we get back at it."

Wilson maintains he and Willis are friends and have been to camps and sparred with each other over the years.

"But every time we've gotten in the ring and sparred since then (nationals), I've tried to make a statement," says Wilson. "I try to let him know who really is the champion. He'll come to find out Saturday."

Willis is ranked No. 1 in the nation, largely because he racked up points while representing the U.S. in the months after Wilson gave up the title, says Jim Pedrojetti, trainer for the Bulldog Boxing Club, which Wilson represents.

Wilson, ranked fourth, qualified for the Pan Am Games earlier this week in Argentina and only returned to the Rogue Valley Thursday afternoon.

When he wasn't called to action by USA Boxing during the latter part of last year, Wilson feared he was being blackballed. However, funding was scant and several trips were scrapped, he says, so no one saw a lot of action.

The past year "was hard at first," Wilson admits, but it helped to have Dan Campbell, the national team coach, in his corner, figuratively.

"Every time I go anywhere, on a trip or to a camp, I'm one of the hardest workers," says Wilson. "I prove that I want to be there. He knows everyone makes mistakes and you have to live and learn. I've put it past me. I don't even really think about it anymore."

This weekend's fight card is the first one in five years here, says Pedrojetti, and rekindles the decade-long rivalry between Bulldog Boxing and the Tacoma Boxing Club.

"They've been one of the dominant programs the past five or six years," he says. "It always comes down to us in the regionals. It makes it really special to have this at home."

Bulldog Boxing has four boxers who could challenge for spots on the U.S. Olympic team, he says. Three of them will be in action Saturday. Along with Wilson, Troy Wohosky, ranked seventh nationally, will fight at 119 pounds, and Javier Torres, who routinely spars with Wilson, goes at 201 pounds.

The fourth top-flight boxer, 106-pounder Alejandro Gonzalez, will be idle.

There also will be a women's fight on the card involving boxers from out of state.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com