Willie Nelson scored an unpopular 10-round unanimous decision over Luciano Cuello of Madrid, Spain in a super welterweight match in the first of three televised undercard matches on the Gennady Golovkin-Matthew Macklin show at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods on Saturday night.
It was supposed to be a showcase fight for Nelson, whose nickname is “The Great.” But Cuello (32-3, 15 KOs), whose two previous losses had been against Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., pushed Nelson to the limit and tried to make him the lyrics to a bad country music song in a 10-round super welterweight match.
Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KOs), who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, is trained by Jack Loew, the former trainer for former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. Loew could not have been happy that the rangy Nelson didn’t use his jab to control the shorter Cuello and allowed Cuello to close the distance and pound Nelson inside. Both Cuello and Nelson were battered and bleeding after the 10 round war of attrition.
“I feel great. He’s tougher than I thought, but I still think I won convincingly,” Nelson said. “The cuts (over both eyes) bothered me, but I fought through it. I want to fight all the top 154 pound fighters and this was a step toward that.”
Cuello hurt Nelson in the seventh round, wobbling him with a shot to the temple followed by barrage of punches early in the round. But Cuello couldn’t finish the job and appeared to punch himself out, which allowed Nelson time to recover and finish the round on his feet.
Cuello went after Nelson in the 10th round and stunned him again. But Nelson tied up Cuello to avoid taking too many heavy shots and then he got on his bicycle and pedaled away from trouble. The crowd booed Nelson’s avoidance tactics. But he survived the round and the fight. When it was over Loew lifted Nelson into the air.
The crowd booed when the decision was read, giving Nelson the unanimous decision. It certainly wasn’t the kind of showcase performance that Nelson was looking for.
In other undercard matches Thomas Oosthuizen of South Africa (21-0-2, 13 KOs) and Brandon Gonzales of Sacramento (17-0-2, 10 KOs) fought to a draw in a 10-round super middleweight match. Oosthuizen fought with little urgency, while Gonzales could never take control of the action in the ring.
Judge Clark Sammartino scored it 95-95. Judge Glenn Feldman scored it 96-94 for Oosthuizen and judge Peter Harry scored it 98-92 for Gonzales.
“I thought I won the fight. I will give him an immediate rematch. I’m not satisfied with the decision.” Oosthuizen said. “I started sluggishly. It was hard to find my rhythm, but once I did I thought I won the balance of the fight.”
Gonzales saw things differently.
“I absolutely won the fight,” he said. “I landed the harder shots and outboxed him. I did everything I had to do. Unfortunately the judges didn’t think so. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do.”
Also on the undercard, welterweight Dusty Harrison of Washington, D.C. (14-0, 7 KOs) pounded out a six-round unanimous decision over Ben Ankrah of Chicago, Ill. (15-15, 6 KOs)ÔÇªLuis Rosa of New Haven, Conn. (14-0, 6 KOs), scored an eight round unanimous decision over Joe Angel Beranza of Mexico City (36-27-2, 28 KOs) in a super bantamweight boutÔÇªJunior middleweight Danny O’Connor of Framingham, Mass. (21-1, 7 KOs), scored an eight-round unanimous decision over Hector Munoz of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Munoz (21-11-1, 14 KOs) was once promoted by the late Johnny Tapia, a former champion from Albuquerque.