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News: Willie Nelson; Rodriguez vs. Pazos; Zou Shiming

ST. LOUIS - North American Boxing Federation (NABF) super welterweight champion Willie "The Great" Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) has a lot riding on the outcome of his HBO® fight debut this Saturday night against Argentinian veteran Luciano Leonel "El Principito" Cuello (32-2, 16 KOs), at MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods ® Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

The World Boxing Council's (WBC) No. 3-rated Nelson fights No. 13-ranked Cuello in the HBO opener (9:45 p.m. ET/PT start) on a special triple-header, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and K2 Promotions, that is headlined by World Boxing Association (WBA) International Boxing Organization (IBO) middleweight champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) defending against former world title challenger Matthew "Mack The Knife" Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs).  IBO super middleweight title-holder Thomas "Tommy Gun" Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs) faces Brandon "Flawless" Gonzales (17-0, 10 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature on HBO.

Nelson vs. Cuello is being promoted by Steve Smith's Rumble Time Promotions and DiBella Entertainment, with whom Nelson recently resigned an exclusive three-year promotional contract.

The 6' 4" Nelson, who an incredible 81" reach and only 6-percent body fat, plans to make a major statement on the network to position himself not only for return engagements on HBO, but his first world title fight as well.  Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the WBC 154-pound champion, but he's committed to a September 14th mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather.  It's highly unlikely that the Alvarez-Mayweather winner would make a risky voluntary defense against an imposing physical specimen like Nelson.

Team Nelson believes that Willie, who is also rated No. 14 by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and No. 10 by The Ring Magazine, needs to become the WBC mandatory challenger in order to get his title shot.  An impressive win over Cuello could move Nelson closer to a fight against either of the fighters rated ahead of him in the WBC ratings, No. 1 Erislandy Lara and No. 2 Miguel Cotto, as well as one of the other world champions or top contenders.

"I've been to the top of the mountain with Kelly (Pavlik) and know how this works," Nelson's trainer Jack Loew said.  "This fight, for Willie, is like the (Jose Luis) Zertuche fight for Kelly.  It got Kelly a high-profile fight on HBO against (Edison) Miranda and that fight got him his world title fight (Jermain Taylor).  With what's been happening lately in boxing, HBO is looking for fresh faces. All Willie has to do is follow the game plan like he did in his last fight against (Michael) Medina (impressive 1st round TKO).  Because of his freakish style, interesting storyline and likeable personality, Willie can be the new face on HBO.

"We're not putting added pressure on Willie by talking about how important it is for him to win and win impressively.  He understands what this fight means for his career. Willie is ready to take the next step, starting this Saturday night.  He's prepared for this moment, in and out of the ring, and he's great shape for fight, mentally and physically."

Cuello is the latest in a long line of outstanding Argentinian boxers such as Sergio Martinez, Lucas Matthysee and Marco Maidana.  Cuello's only career losses as a professional have been to two world champions, Alvarez (TKO6) and Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (DEC10).

"Cuello doesn't do anything special but he does nothing bad," Loew noted.  "He's a strong fighter who comes to fight.  He has decent pop but throws wild punches, looping lefts to the body and overhand rights to the head.  Cuello is a lot like Medina and any fighter who comes straight at Willie is good for us.  Watch for Willie's straight right hand down the middle like he hit Medina with."

Nelson recently announced that he is dedicating Saturday's fight to honor the three Cleveland women - Amanda Berry,Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - who were kidnapped, abused and held hostage for a decade until they were recently freed.  Rival Boxing Gear has specially designed and made customized outfits for Willie and his corner-men - Nelson's trunks display "Cleveland 3" - and hand-made gloves.

Tickets are currently on sale and are priced at $300, $200, $90 and $45.  Tickets may be purchased online at foxwoods.com by calling the Foxwoods' box office at 800-200-2882, or in person at the Foxwoods' box office.  Tickets may also be purchased through any Ticketmaster outlet and online at Ticketmaster.com.

Go online to www.RumbleTimePromotions.com for more information about Nelson or any of his Rumble Time Promotions stable-mates.

Bethlehem, PA—It will be a classic Puerto Rico vs. Mexico showdown when Gamalier Rodriguez defends his NABO featherweight championship against Jorge Pazos in the scheduled 10-round main event Saturday evening, Aug. 10, in the Events Center of the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

       The Rodriguez-Pazos contest will be on Solo Boxeo Tecate, aired on UniMas.  It headlines a seven-bout card.  First live fight at 7 pm.

     Rodriguez, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, will be making the first defense of the title he won May 18 when he knocked out Alicio Castaneda, of Galveston, TX, in three rounds in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

     A pro since 2006, the 26-year-old Rodriguez has a record of 21-2-3, 15 K0s.  He has not lost a fight in four years, going 13-0-1, 11 K0s, in that streak.

     Rodriguez (right) has boxed once in Nevada, twice in California, 10 times in the Dominican Republic and 13 times in Puerto Rico.  The Aug. 10 fight will mark his East Coast debut.

     Pazos, 24, of Guamuchil, Sinaloa, Mexico, is coming off a 12-round points loss last Oct. 19 to Orlando Cruz, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in Kissimmee, FL, for the WBO Latino featherweight championship.

     A pro since 2000, Pazos has a record of 19-5-1, 13 K0s.

     The Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry extends to the 10-round welterweight semifinal where Ronald Cruz, of Bethlehem tries to get back on the winning track against Rodolfo Armenta, of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico.

     Cruz, 26, has dropped back-to-back 10-round decisions to Antwone Smith, of Miami, FL, and Ray Narh, of Brooklyn, NY, after winning his first 17 fights as a pro with 12 knockouts.

     He hopes to end his drought against Armenta, 28, of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, who has made a career out of fighting top opposition, including seven men who were undefeated when he fought them.

     Now living in Rio Rico, AZ, Armenta has compiled a 12-10-1 record with nine knockouts since turning pro in 2007.

     “The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has been showcasing world-class talent since the Events Center opened last year,” said J Russell Peltz, who is co-promoting the Aug. 10 card with Top Rank and BAM Boxing.

     “Already we have had heavyweights Tomasz Adamek, Steve Cunningham and Bryant Jennings, light-heavyweight Sergey Kovalev and junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado.    Now we are adding Rodriguez, Verdejo and possibly unbeaten super middleweight prospect Jesse Hart.   The fights have been competitive and have been seen on NBC Sports Network and NBC-TV.  We are moving forward with Solo Boxeo Tecate on UniMas.  Bethlehem is a hotbed for Hispanic fight fans and August 10 should be another exciting night of boxing.”

MACAO – Tickets for the Saturday, July 27 Fists of Gold II event are on sale now. The exciting, multi-bout event at The Venetian® Macao’s CotaiArena™ features two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time Amateur World Champion Zou Shiming returning to the ring in a flyweight matchup against Mexico’s Jesus Ortega. The spectacular fight card also features two world championship title fights – WBO/WBA flyweight champion Juan Estrada vs. Milan Melindo and IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich vs. Mauricio Muñoz, plus undefeated Hong Kong super flyweight Rex “The Wonder Kid” Tso in his Macao debut. Watching all the action from ringside will be Fighter of the Decade Manny Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, and former world lightweight champion Brandon Rios.

Promoted by Top Rank® and Sands China Ltd., in association with Tecate, Fists of Gold II tickets are on sale now at all CotaiTicketing™* box offices.

The fantastic night of entertainment ahead is the latest world-class sports spectacular from Sands China. The integrated resort developer’s multi-tiered entertainment strategy is aimed at diversifying Macao’s tourism economy through the varied offerings of its Cotai Strip Resorts, contributing to the city’s development into one of Asia’s top entertainment hubs and a world centre of tourism and leisure. April’s Fists of Gold event was a sold-out crowd pleaser, and was televised internationally to more than 30 countries, including to the U.S. via HBO2 and in China on CCTV5.

Fists of Gold II will once again reunite broadcasting icons Tim Ryan and Larry Merchant and former two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman for the international telecast where they will be calling the action from ringside.  HBO2 will televise Fists of Gold II the same day in the U.S., beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT   

Sure to make a big splash during the multi-bout night of action is the six-round super flyweight non-title matchup between Hong Kong’s Rex Tso (6-0, 4 KOs), who will risk his undefeated record when he takes on battle-tested Rusalee Samor (20-4-2, 9 KOs), from Pattani, Thailand. The 25-year-old Tso is one of Hong Kong’s most popular fighters and already world-rated No. 17 by the WBC, capturing the WBC Asia Council Continental super flyweight title last December when he knocked out the vastly more experienced Timur Shailezof in the 10th round. Tso successfully defended the title on May 28, in front of a frenzied crowd of Tso fans in Hong Kong, knocking out Wandee Singwancha in the fourth round. Samor, 29, is a former IBF Pan Pacific flyweight champion. He captured the title in 2011 via a 12-round decision victory over Ryan Tampus and successfully defended it four times during his one-year reign before losing it to Ryan Ponteras in December. He returned to the winner’s circle in his last fight, April 14, scoring an impressive fourth-round knockout of Louis Leomoli.          

Zou (1-0), from Guizhou, and trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, won his professional debut April 6, via a dominant four-round unanimous decision over gritty Eleazar Valenzuela of México. One of the most popular Olympic athletes in China, Zou was his nation's first Olympic medallist in boxing as well as its first boxing gold medallist in the World Amateur Championships and the Olympics. He signed with Arum’s Top Rank at a press conference in Beijing in January.

Moving up to the flyweight division, Zou will be graduating to a six-round bout when he faces Jesus Ortega (3-1, 2 KOs) from Hermosillo, México. A stablemate of world flyweight champion Juan Estrada, the hard-hitting Ortega is an exciting prospect who enters this fight on a roll, having won his last two fights – his most recent a third-round knockout victory against Arcadio Sanchez April 19.

In addition to Zou's return, the event line-up includes an undercard highlighted by two 12-round world championship fights. WBO/WBA flyweight champion Juan Estrada (23-2, 17 KOs), of Hermosillo, México, will make the first defence of the titles he won from Brian Viloria April 6 at Fists of Gold. Estrada faces the undefeated Milan Melindo (28-0, 11 KOs), of Manadue, Philippines. Melindo, the number one contender and mandatory challenger, earned his shot at the title by knocking out once-beaten Tommy Seran in the fourth round on the April 6 card in Macao. Undefeated IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs), a native of Russia, now fighting from Oxnard, Calif., makes his first title defence against No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger Mauricio Muñoz (26-3, 12 KOs), of San Juan, Argentina. Gradovich captured the world title March 1 when he dethroned defending champion Billy Dib via a split decision. Muñoz earned his title shot by defeating previously unbeaten contender Luis Franco in his last fight, October 13, 2012. The international telecast will open with a 10-round heavyweight rumble between undefeated contenders Andy Ruiz, Jr. (19-0, 13 KOs), of Mexicali, México, and Joe Hanks (21-0, 14 KOs), of Los Angeles.

The undercard also features undefeated Genesis Servania (21-0, 8 KOs), of Cebu City, Philippines, in an eight-round super bantamweight bout against Konosuke Tomiyama (23-5-1, 8 KOs), of Tokyo, Japan; Paul Fleming (18-0, 13 KOs), of Sydney, Australia, in an eight-round super featherweight bout against Chaiyong Sithsaithong (30-10-3, 21 KOs), of Sakon Nakhon, Thailand; and undefeated Dave Peñalosa (6-0, 4 KOs), from Cebu City, Philippines, in a four-round super bantamweight bout against Ngaotawan Sithsaithong (10-10-1, 5 KOs), of Bangkok, Thailand. Fleming and Peñalosa were both knockout victors at April’s Fists of Gold.

Ticket buyers to the mega-event have the option of purchasing the "Fists of Gold II" Package, starting at just HK$1,700**, to stay at the fabulous Cotai Strip Resorts on fight night – July 27, 2013 – and enjoy the following exclusive advantages:

·         Two D Reserve tickets to Fists of Gold II

·         Accommodation for two

Packages are also available with C Reserve, B Reserve or A Reserve tickets, ranging from HK$2,000-$3,000**, for stays at Holiday Inn Macao Cotai Central; Sheraton Macao Hotel, Cotai Central; or The Venetian Macao. Bookings are available now, on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to availability. To get more information, including full terms and conditions, visit www.venetianmacao.com/macau-shows/macau-events/zou-shiming-returning-to-macao/ .

Tickets for the 5:30 p.m. July 27 Fists of Gold II event are on sale now at all CotaiTicketing box offices. They can be purchased in one of five categories: HKD/MOP 1,680 (Silver), 980 (A Reserve), 580 (B Reserve), 280 (C Reserve) and 80 (D Reserve). Packages with round trip Cotai Water Jet ferry tickets between Hong Kong and Macao are also available for HKD/MOP 1,768 (Silver), 1,068 (A Reserve), 668 (B Reserve) and 368 (C Reserve). Tickets can be booked online at www.CotaiTicketing.com , or by phone at +853 2882 8818 (Macao) / +852 6333 6660 (HK) / 4001 206 618 (China), and are also available at Tom Lee Outlets, K11 Select and through Hong Kong Ticketing (customer service fee applies), online at www.HKTicketing.com or by phone at +852 3128 8288.

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