Willie Nelson Dominates Yudel Jhonson

boxingBy John G. Thompson: Underdog Willie Nelson (18-1-1, 11 KO’s) put on the best performance of his career this evening against his undefeated opponent and Olympic Silver Medalist Yudel Jhonson (12-1, 8 KO’s) at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The undercard on Shobox: The New Generation featured two previously undefeated super middleweights - Badou Jack “The Ripper” (11-0, 8 KO’s) and Alexander Brand (17-1, 15 KO’s). Jack won a very close split decision, a result booed by the crowd in attendance.

Thirty year old Jhonson may have only fought a dozen professional fights so far, but possesses an extensive amateur background. Before defecting from Cuba to Miami to begin his professional career, Jhonson won Silver for Cuba at the 2004 Olympic Games, as well as a host of gold and silver medals in various international competitions from light flyweight up to welterweight. Jhonson is a 5’10” (178 cm) southpaw now competing in the light middleweight division. He has not fought since last October, when he won via third round TKO, albeit against a fighter with a losing record. Actually, despite Jhonson’s amateur pedigree, his professional competition thus far has been limited..

Twenty-five year old Nelson – not to be confused with the country singer, biofuel activist, and marijuana proponent – comes from Cleveland, Ohio. His sole loss was an eight round majority decision against Vincent Arroyo. Though Arroyo knocked Nelson down three times during the course of the fight, I had actually scored it a draw, as did one of the judges, the other two awarding the fight to Arroyo by a single round. Nelson has fought once since then, last January, earning a second round TKO. Unlike his hippie counterpart, Nelson is 6’3” (191 cm) with over 200 amateur bouts. Interestingly, Nelson already has another fight scheduled in exactly one week according to, though against a much softer opponent.

The first round was a bit of a feeling out round. In the second, Jhonson landed a couple jabs and then a big straight left to Nelson’s jaw. Jhonson proceeded to chase Nelson around the ring, but Nelson tied up. With just over a minute left in the round, Nelson caught Jhonson with a well timed counter right and Jhonson went down a moment later in a delayed reaction. This was the first knockdown in Jhonson's career. Jhonson looked a little shaky as he got up, but he landed a few good lefts toward the end of the round.

The fight turned into a bit of a technical chess match in the third, each man acknowledging the other’s punching power and speed. Jhonson had by far his best round of the evening in the fourth, when with just forty seconds left on the clock Jhonson caught Nelson with an overhand left, coming over a lazy right cross by Nelson, and connected flush on the jaw sending Nelson down violently. It looked as though Nelson was out before he hit the canvas, but surprisingly Nelson got up quickly. Jhonson peppered him with shots looking for the stoppage. Nelson grabbed onto Jhonson, but Jhonson threw him off, and Nelson hit the canvas. The referee did not rule it a knockdown and the bell rang before the action could continue.

Jhonson proceeded to stalk his man in the fifth, outworking Nelson for the most part. Nelson was content to move away and occasionally land a counter. Later in the round Jhonson backed Nelson into a corner. He missed a couple shots and Nelson countered, throwing punch after punch and staggering Jhonson back with a right. For the rest of the fight Nelson proceeded to back Jhonson up with the jab and land with the straight right, controlling the action. I did not give Jhonson another round. Nelson really landed some good shots in the eighth. In the tenth, Jhonson let his hands go but Nelson blocked most of his punches. Mid way through the round Nelson caught Jhonson with another counter and tried to finish Jhonson off. One judge scored it 95-94, and the other two as I had it at 97-92 all for Willie Nelson.

Twenty-eight year old Badou Jack is originally from Sweden, though he now resides in Las Vegas. The product of a Swedish mother and Gambian father, Jack has the distinction of being the only boxer to represent Gambia in the history of the Olympic Games, though he did not win a medal. He last fought in March, picking up a six round unanimous decision. His thirty-five year old opponent Brand hails from Bogota, Colombia. This was his second bout at the Texas Station Casino, though only his third bout outside of Colombia. He won his last fight in March via fifth round knockout. Many of his opponents so far have had losing records, six of them having no wins at all, though he had over four hundred amateur bouts.

Jack set the pace in the first round, coming toward his opponent behind the jab looking for a hard straight right to end the night early. Brand, who trains with the same trainer as Sergio Martinez, fought with a somewhat unorthodox style and seemed like he was trying to reenact Martinez vs. Williams II, looking for a big counter punch. Toward the end of the round, Brand found more success making Jack miss and looked confident in one of the closer rounds of the fight.

Brand came out swinging at the start of the second and then let Jack resume following him around the ring setting the pace with his jab, but Brand made it a rough inside fight toward the end of the round. Brand again came out swinging at the start of the third, but again Jack dodged or blocked most of it. Jack tried to resume his attack, but this time Brand seemed to be outworking him, throwing punches from angles and occasionally lunging in with shots.

Brand continued to land with looping hooks in the fourth, largely because Jack did not move his head, simply trying to block everything. Jack had his strongest round of the fight in the fifth, finding a home for his right on Brand’s face and following it up with his left. Brand controlled the action in the sixth, being the first to get off his shots and not letting Jack connect. The seventh round was like the sixth, as Brand made Jack miss with body movement, his hands held low throughout the bout. Brand also connected with counters and lead uppercuts to Jack’s head.

The action halted in the first minute of the eighth and final round, as Brand’s foul protector seemed to slide down his trunks and his corner man had to adjust his cup. Both men engaged in furious exchanges as the action continued; both sensing the fight hinging on the final round. Jack seemed to land the more meaningful punches however. One judge scored it 77-75 for Brand, but the other two scored it 77-75 for Jack, drawing boos from the crowd. Like announcer Steve Farhood, I scored it a draw. But even though I thought it was close and the scores did reflect that, I could understand the crowd feeling that Brand deserved the decision. Despite an awkward style, Brand seemed the busier and more crowd friendly fighter of the two.

Article posted on 12.05.2012

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