ST. LOUIS (June 25, 2013) - North American Boxing Federation (NABF) super welterweight champion Willie "The Great" Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) has a lot riding on the outcome of his HBO® fight debut this Saturday night against Argentinian veteran Luciano Leonel "El Principito" Cuello (32-2, 16 KOs), at MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods ® Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
The World Boxing Council's (WBC) No. 3-rated Nelson fights No. 13-ranked Cuello in the HBO opener (9:45 p.m. ET/PT start) on a special triple-header, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and K2 Promotions, that is headlined by World Boxing Association (WBA) International Boxing Organization (IBO) middleweight champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) defending against former world title challenger Matthew "Mack The Knife" Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs). IBO super middleweight title-holder Thomas "Tommy Gun" Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs) faces Brandon "Flawless" Gonzales (17-0, 10 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature on HBO.
Nelson vs. Cuello is being promoted by Steve Smith's Rumble Time Promotions and DiBella Entertainment, with whom Nelson recently resigned an exclusive three-year promotional contract.
The 6' 4" Nelson, who an incredible 81" reach and only 6-percent body fat, plans to make a major statement on the network to position himself not only for return engagements on HBO, but his first world title fight as well. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the WBC 154-pound champion, but he's committed to a September 14th mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather. It's highly unlikely that the Alvarez-Mayweather winner would make a risky voluntary defense against an imposing physical specimen like Nelson.
Team Nelson believes that Willie, who is also rated No. 14 by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and No. 10 by The Ring Magazine, needs to become the WBC mandatory challenger in order to get his title shot. An impressive win over Cuello could move Nelson closer to a fight against either of the fighters rated ahead of him in the WBC ratings, No. 1 Erislandy Lara and No. 2 Miguel Cotto, as well as one of the other world champions or top contenders.
"I've been to the top of the mountain with Kelly (Pavlik) and know how this works," Nelson's trainer Jack Loew said. "This fight, for Willie, is like the (Jose Luis) Zertuche fight for Kelly. It got Kelly a high-profile fight on HBO against (Edison) Miranda and that fight got him his world title fight (Jermain Taylor). With what's been happening lately in boxing, HBO is looking for fresh faces. All Willie has to do is follow the game plan like he did in his last fight against (Michael) Medina (impressive 1st round TKO). Because of his freakish style, interesting storyline and likeable personality, Willie can be the new face on HBO.
"We're not putting added pressure on Willie by talking about how important it is for him to win and win impressively. He understands what this fight means for his career. Willie is ready to take the next step, starting this Saturday night. He's prepared for this moment, in and out of the ring, and he's great shape for fight, mentally and physically."
Cuello is the latest in a long line of outstanding Argentinian boxers such as Sergio Martinez, Lucas Matthysee and Marco Maidana. Cuello's only career losses as a professional have been to two world champions, Alvarez (TKO6) and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (DEC10).
"Cuello doesn't do anything special but he does nothing bad," Loew noted. "He's a strong fighter who comes to fight. He has decent pop but throws wild punches, looping lefts to the body and overhand rights to the head. Cuello is a lot like Medina and any fighter who comes straight at Willie is good for us. Watch for Willie's straight right hand down the middle like he hit Medina with."
Nelson recently announced that he is dedicating Saturday's fight to honor the three Cleveland women - Amanda Berry,Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - who were kidnapped, abused and held hostage for a decade until they were recently freed. Rival Boxing Gear has specially designed and made customized outfits for Willie and his corner-men - Nelson's trunks display "Cleveland 3" - and hand-made gloves.