Willie Nelson Aiming For the Top Jr. Middleweights-Canelo, Cotto, Trout, Angulo, And Kirkland
The freakish physical attributes of North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Super Welterweight champion Willie “The Great” Nelson presents a clear and present danger, as well as a totally unique challenge, for World Boxing Council (WBC) 154-pound king Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (41-0, 30 KOs).
Nelson(19-1-1, 11 KOs), the top-ranked American in the WBC ratings at No. 6, stands 6′ 4″ and has an 81″ reach. The 5′ 9″ Alvarez has never fought anybody even remotely close to Nelson’s size. In fact, in his six world title fights, the popular Mexican fighter’s opponents have averaged 5′ 9″ with a 70 3/4″ reach. The 5′ 11″ Kermit Cintron with his 74″ reach is the tallest and longest-reaching foe Alvarez has fought to date.
Rumble Time Promotions president Steve Smith, who co-promotes Nelson along with Lou DiBella (DiBella Entertainment), believes Nelson is ready to make some noise. “Willie’s willing to fight the top super welterweights in the world. He is done ruining the dreams of top prospects, as he did in his last two fights, and is ready to wake-up the boring 154-pound division. Willie can deliver to the networks what boxing fans really want to see – excitement and action! He can be a fresh face for the public to enjoy, replacing the same old faces of recycled fighters that fans are tired of watching. This is Willie Nelson’s time.”
Neither No. 1 ranked Erislandy Lara (17-1-2, 11 KOs) nor No. 2 Vanes “Nightmare” Martirosyan distinguished themselves as viable title contenders in their recent WBC title eliminator. The only thing more disappointing than it ending in a nine-round draw, due to a cut over Martirosyan’s left eyebrow, resulting from an accidental clash of heads, was their overall lack of action.
Lara and Martirosyan have been awarded a rematch by the WBC to determine its mandatory challenger for Alvarez,whohas been granted a voluntary defense option. Although Alvarez is reportedly eying a mega-fight in May against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto or Sergio Martinez, if none of those fights are made, Nelson is ready, willing and able to accept that challenge.
“If ‘Canelo’ was going to fight the winner of Martirosyan and Lara,” Nelson’s head trainer Jack Lowe said, “hands down, Willie would give him a much better fight than either of those two guys. That fight was disgusting, the most boring title eliminator I’ve ever seen. Neither kid wanted it. They were fighting for a big payday and world title shot but neither of them wanted to really fight. ‘Canelo’ is the champ and I’ll give him his props, but Willie is next in line in the junior middleweight division. I’ve looked across the board, at all of the top boxing organizations, and there isn’t a world champion or top 5-fighter we wouldn’t fight right now. If not Alvarez, I’d like to see Willie in against Cotto, who has had his day, and I’d put him in against (Austin) Trout tonight. (Alfredo) Angulo, (James) Kirkland…those are the type of guys we’d like to fight.”
Nelson is coming off of impressive back-to-back victories by 10-round decisions over a pair of previously unbeaten prospects, two-time Cuban National champion Yudel Jhonson (12-1) on ShoBox, and WBC Youth champion John “Dah Rock” Jackson (13-1, 12 KOs), for the vacant NABF super welterweight title, on the September 15thSergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. HBO Pay-Per-View event.
The only fighters ranked ahead of Nelson in the WBC ratings, other than Lara and Martiosyan, are virtually unknowns in North America: 3. WBC Baltic championDamion Jonack (34-0-1, 21 KOs), of Poland; 4. WBC International titlist Emanuele Della Rosa (30-1, 8 KOs), of Italy; No. 5 European and WBC Silver champ Sergey Rabchenko (21-0, 16 KOs), of Bellarussia.
Cleveland-native Nelson, who trains in Youngstown, Ohio with Loew, has a rich amateur pedigree having had nearly 250 matches, including title-winning performances in the PAL Nationals twice and Under-19 Tournament, and only 22 losses.
Because of his freakish size for a junior middleweight, Nelson has been favorably compared to a right-handed Paul Williams, or a young Tommy Hearns. Nelson may not be as famous as his singing namesake, but Alvarez has never fought anybody like him, and boxing fans most certainly would be entertained by their contrasting styles and divergent body stature.
“What’s very interesting is that ‘Canelo’ was supposed to fight Paul Williams (who was paralyzed in motorcycle accident),” Loew added. “So, it’s not like Alvarez won’t take a fight against a guy with Willie’s freakish stature. I thought Paul would have had an excellent shot of beating Alvarez, as long as he didn’t get hit by a shot over the top. ‘Canelo’ is improving each fight but I don’t think he is a superstar. If he’d fight Paul Williams with his style, why not give us a shot? If Willie had only 15-20 amateur fights, I wouldn’t say he’s ready for ‘Canelo’ right now, but Willie had more than 200 amateur fights and 21 in the pros. He’s ready for Alvarez and confident.”