Thursday, April 11, 2013
Finding Nelson foe proving tricky
By Dan Rafael
Who will junior middleweight Willie Nelson fight on June 29? Good question.
Promoter Lou DiBella and HBO continue to search for an opponent to face Nelson in the opener of a tripleheader that will be topped by Gennady Golovkin's middleweight title defense against Matthew Macklin.
It has been an arduous task to find an opponent for Cleveland's Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) that everyone is comfortable with. As somebody involved in the fight said to me recently, "I'm in Willie Nelson opponent hell."
Poland's obscure and untested Damian Jonak (36-0, 21 KOs) turned down the fight, according to DiBella. He said he was hoping to put in Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 KOs) as the opponent, but HBO execs are balking, and I can't blame them.
Argentina's Javier Maciel (25-2, 18 KOs) has also come up as a possibility since his April 6 fight in Macau, China, against Vanes Martirosyan was canceled after Martirosyan broke his thumb.
Promoter Joe DeGuardia, who signed former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey earlier this year, said Clottey has accepted the fight but that DiBella and HBO have not accepted him -- although they haven't said no, either.
"We definitely want the fight," DeGuardia said. "We said it three weeks ago, and we still want it. There's no issue on money. We're ready to go."
Clottey (36-4, 22 KOs), best known for losses to Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, hasn't fought since a second-round knockout of Calvin Green in November 2011, which was his first fight in the 20 months following the loss to Pacquiao. Frankly, as long as Nelson is going to be on the show, and given the available opponents, getting Clottey to fight him in the opening bout of a smaller card isn't too bad. The universe of available, solid opponents is small.