- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Junior middleweight contender Willie Nelson was out of action for a year because of left elbow surgery, but returned June 7 on the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez undercard to drill soft-touch Darryl Cunningham in the first round.
Cleveland’s Nelson (22-1-1, 13 KOs) came out of the fight with his elbow feeling good and will be back in a tougher fight when he headlines the Aug. 8 edition of “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, 9 ET) at the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon, Nevada, promoter Lou DiBella announced on Tuesday.
Nelson will face Luis Grajeda (17-2-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico in a scheduled 10-rounder.
In the eight-round super middleweight co-feature, 18-year-old Hungarian prospect Norbert Nemesapati (14-0, 13 KOs) will make his U.S. debut against Lennox Allen (17-0-1, 10 KOs). The opening bout will feature the heavily hyped four-round pro debut of heavyweight Zhang Zhilei, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist from China.
“Willie is knocking on the door to a world title opportunity and an impressive performance against the hard-punching Grajeda moves him in that direction,” DiBella said. “The co-feature pits two undefeated boxers in the most important fight of their careers. Norbert is on the fast track to stardom and is looking to make an immediate impact on the super middleweight division in his U.S. debut, but this is the type of opportunity that Lennox has been waiting for, to prove that he is among the best 168-pound fighters in the world. It is a true crossroads bout, with the winner clearly cementing himself as a legitimate player in the division.
“Opening up the card, you have Zhilei, a silver medalist who many believe has the ability to be a future star in the heavyweight division. This is a big event for the people of Fallon and we are excited to be a part of it.”
Nelson, 27, has won six fights in a row since a majority decision loss in an eight-rounder to Vincent Arroyo in 2011.