Cleveland's Willie Nelson took a risk by stepping in as a short-notice opponent tonight against unbeaten Cuban junior middleweight Yudel Jhonson, but you can bet he and his team are glad they took the chance, as Nelson leaves Las Vegas with an upset win on ShoBox: The New Generation on scores of 97-92, 97-92, and 95-94. Bad Left Hook scored it 97-92 for Nelson.
[ ShoBox Results: Jack Escapes Brand Via SD ]
Nelson (18-1-1, 11 KO) started quick by establishing distance early, and then in the second round, floored Jhonson (12-1, 8 KO) on a quick right hand that seemed to catch him entirely by surprise, right on the nose and sending him to the canvas on a delayed reaction.
With Nelson rolling through three, though, Jhonson made it a fight, sending Nelson down hard on an absolute monster of a left hand that landed flush on the chin. The impact and drop would have made you think it was over there. It was true KO material. But Nelson, who has been chinny but not easy to keep down, bounced right back up and kept going, even rattling Jhonson later in the round.
After the big knockdown, it was all Willie, as the 6'3" righty kept on trucking over a tentative Jhonson, and closed the show with a very strong 12th round. Jhonson just never really got it going in this fight, and with his first pro loss, he teeters on the edge of being another Cuban bust in the last half decade or so of defectors who have made their way into the pro ranks, with only Yuriorkis Gamboa and to a lesser extent Guillermo Rigondeaux really standing out to date.
It's a huge win for Nelson, who gets himself back on the right track with this one, and a big setback for Jhonson.
Thanks for joining us tonight, and remember that we'll be back tomorrow night with live coverage of the Viloria vs Romero card at 9 p.m. EDT, and possibly the BoxNation card featuring Gennady Golovkin and Zaurbek Baysangurov in the afternoon.