The on again, off again return of former amateur star Mike Wilson is on again. After days in which it looked as though the fight was in jeopardy, Wilson will indeed take on free-swinger Harry Gopaul in a four-round cruiserweight special attraction on Saturday night at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon.
Wilson (6-0, 3 KOs) of Medford, Oregon ended a long layoff in May with a four-round decision in Rhode Island and had been pegged to make his first home state appearance as a professional this Saturday night. Several opponents opted not to take on the former national amateur champion, but luckily rugged Harry Gopaul (1-3, 1 KO) of Sacramento, California has stepped up to the challenge and will meet Wilson this Saturday night.
For Wilson, who has fought all over the country and even in Australia, fighting at home is a dream come true. “It feels great,” exclaimed Wilson about coming back to Oregon. “I’ve been overseas and fought and we’re usually packing onto a plane to get to wherever I have fought. You are kind of going over there to no man’s land by yourself. Sometimes I have to look at the weigh-in for someone to work my corner and you are kind of a one-man team. Here being at home, you have the support of everybody – your friends and your family and all these people that have only read about you through the years. It is sort of like a home field advantage in the NFL. When you are tired, you have all these people hooting and hollering for you, it can really make the difference and pick you up. It gives a little more fuel to the fire.”
Wilson, who fought at 201 in his last fight and has come in as high as 220 as a pro, this fight also marks a move down to the cruiserweight division. “This is the start of a new run,” explains Wilson. “I dropped down a weight class. I have always fought at heavyweight and I was always considered a really small heavyweight. So I had to fight these really big guys. By today’s standards, heavyweights are about 250-pounds. So I started living right and making the right decisions as far as not being out there screwing around or drinking or anything like that. My whole body has tightened and I feel great, like a whole new person.”
Looking at the cruiserweight division rankings, it is definitely a weight class that has room for some new faces. “I just want to campaign at cruiser and I feel I definitely could move up the ranks a lot faster at cruiserweight than I could have at heavyweight. We’ll campaign at cruiser, hopefully get a cruiserweight title and then at the tail end of my career move on and go up to heavyweight. If you have a cruiserweight title, you are already pretty much in the top ten. So hopefully make some noise up there before I call it a career.”
Helping to keep Wilson motivated through the trials and tribulations any young fighter has in their career has been the success of other fighters the Oregonian competed against at the top amateur level. “It’s tough,” explains Wilson. “You are seeing all these guys fight on Showtime, and I would go, ‘Hey, that was my roommate at this camp or I beat that guy at this tournament.’ You feel like you have fallen off the radar. It is not really anything I’ve done, but being from the Northwest it seems you can sort of fall off the map. It has been tough so to speak, watching these guys come up. But I’ve never let it get me down. It has just given me fire.”
Though Gopaul does not sport a glossy record, he has a reputation for being a tough guy that will bring the fight to whoever he is in the ring with. “I expect him to be right at my face and come right at me,” says Wilson. “I know he is shorter than me, so I am going to keep him at the end of my reach. It is going to be like a bull and a matador. I just have to use my angles and I think I have superior boxing skills than him. I am not looking for a knockout, but if it comes then great. I am just looking to box and give him a boxing lesson. That’s what I do best is I box and that’s what I have done forever.”
Should the fight get tough, for once Wilson will have the support of the crowd. The Medford resident expects a crowd of over a 100 out to support him on Saturday. “It’s an honor to be able to fight before my hometown fans and bring them a fight that they want to see,” says Wilson. “We used to have a really big following as amateurs and had some shows with sellout crowds here. The people really enjoyed it and it is just a big deal. It is a big opportunity for me to hopefully get my foot in the door with this casino and hopefully do this on a regular basis.”
With all the ups and downs he has encountered in his career and in just making this fight, Wilson has always had a positive mindset and never given up, even when he was told no. It is the sort of determination you would want in any fighter. Wilson’s positive outlook has brought him to a place some others would have never found, “I took off two years, but I still got up and did my road work almost every day and I never let myself get out of shape because I knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Wilson steps into the light this Saturday as part of a seven-bout card headlined by a Northwest Light Heavyweight title bout between Seattle, Washington’s Mike Gavronski and Kevin Hand of Salem, Oregon. Tickets for the event, promoted by Patrick Ortiz’ Ringside Ticket, are available online at StarTickets.com.