Friday night at the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon, NV, just outside of Reno, top-rated junior middleweight contender Willie Nelson showed some heart, surviving two separate scares from heavy-handed Mexican Luis Grajeda, to win a 10-round unanimous decision.
The WBC #5-rated Nelson used his size, reach and superior boxing ability to control the early action, but was rocked in the third round by a looping overhand right from Grajeda. Nelson was able to survive the round though and was back in command by the fifth, working behind a long, hard jab.
By the seventh frame, Nelson was in total control, stalking Grajeda around the ring, catching him with big shots from long range and even outworking the smaller Grajeda on the inside.
With Nelson seemingly in cruise control and maybe getting a bit careless, Grajeda landed a monstrous right hand in the eighth that had Nelson nearly out on his feet. Somehow, he stayed upright and again was able to weather the storm and make it to the end of the round. Nelson was able to right the ship during the following stanza and, despite the scary moments, ultimately won by scores of 98-92 across the board. With the win, Nelson improved his record to 23-1-1, 13KO’s, to keep his world-title hopes alive.
Going into their eight-round super middleweight matchup, an action-packed affair was expected between Norbert Nemesapati and Jason Escalera, and the hard-hitting super middleweights did not disappoint. Nemesapati and Escalera came out in the first round firing bombs and, midway through the round, a hard counter left hand and follow-up right had Escalera wobbling around the ring. Nemesapati jumped all over Escalera and looked as though he was going to put the Puerto Rican away, but Escalera cleared his head and began firing back by the end of the round.
With Nemesapati looking a little bit winded from the fast-paced opener, Escalera became the aggressor in round two and took the fight right to the 18-year-old Hungarian.
Escalera kept up his blistering pace in the third and dropped Nemesapati with a left hook upstairs, the first time that Nemesapati had ever been dropped in his career.
The ensuing rounds saw the two combatants fight in a phone booth, with Escalera continuously pushing Nemesapati around the ring, landing hard looping shots with both hands and outworking the Hungarian, who was able to land shots of his own, but they just didn’t have the same amount of steam on them as Escalera’s punches.
With Nemesapati behind on the scorecards, he came out for the eighth and final round intent to score the knockout he needed to keep his undefeated record intact. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t his night, as the more experienced Puerto Rican was not to be denied, winning (UD8 – 79-72, 78-72, 78-73) his second consecutive bout against a previously undefeated foe and upping his record to 15-2-1, 12KO’s, while Nemesapati saw his record fall to 14-1, 13KO’s.
Opening up the card was the highly anticipated pro debut of China’s 2008 Olympic Games silver medalist Zhang Zhilei, who needed just 17 seconds to win, stopping Curtis Lee Tate in the very first round of their scheduled four-round heavyweight special attraction. Boxing insiders and Zhilei’s backers have high hopes for the Chinese southpaw, who is promoted by Dynasty Boxing and working with heavyweight great Evander Holyfield. Unfortunately, his backers and the fans weren’t able to get too much of a look at his arsenal, as the first two left hands that Zhilei threw dropped Tate and the referee immediately called a halt to the contest.
Joel Diaz TKO3 Kevin Aquilar
Eduardo Alicea TKO2 Kirk Huff