By Ryan Buck
A 2007 appearance on HBO’s Boxing After Dark elevated a young Kelly Pavlik into the national boxing consciousness after he knocked out Jose Luis Zertuche.
Another Southside Boxing Club fighter, Willie Nelson, was hoping to make a similar splash against Argentinian Luciano Cuello Saturday in their 10-round junior middleweight bout at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort at Mashantucket, Conn.
Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KO) may not have delivered a perfect performance, but the Cleveland native outlasted Cuello (33-3, 16 KO) by unanimous decision.
Nelson’s trainer, Jack Loew, urged his pupil to utilize his three-inch height advantage.
“I wanted Willie to double the jab and throw the right hand to make it easy on himself and use his height to his advantage,” Loew said by phone after the fight. “Did he fight the smartest fight tonight? No, but he did some good things and we’ll take it and learn from it.”
Nelson, the sixth-ranked World Boxing Council junior middleweight, was ahead of Cuello on all three judges’ cards, 97-93, 97-93, 96-94 and landed 231 of 649 punches thrown. He performed effectively, dominating the early rounds before taking Cuello’s best punches in the middle to later rounds.
“He took some good shots,” said Loew, who saw Nelson stunned by Cuello punches in the fifth and eighth rounds. “He got hurt and he was out on his feet. Then he came back on his feet and did really well. I don’t think it’s a matter of him not being able to take a shot. It’s not often fighters can get knocked down and come back and win.
“I think he performed well enough. I hope they realize who we went in there with and I think we’re ready for the next step.”