NEW YORK - NABF super welterweight champion Willie "The Great" Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) is dedicating his HBO® debut fight on June 29, against Argentinian-invader Luciano Leonel "El Principito" Cuello (32-2, 16 KOs), to 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.
"I'm from Cleveland and this terrible thing hit too close to home," Nelson explained. "I wanted to do something so people don't forget what these brave women and their families went through. They are the toughest fighters in Cleveland."
The 10-round fight between Nelson and Cuello will be the HBO opener (9:45 p.m. ET/PT start) on an explosive triple-header, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and K2 Promotions, headlined by WBA/IBO champion Gennady "GGG" Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) defending against Ireland's top-rated former world title challenger Matthew "Mack The Knife" Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs), live from MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods ® Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. IBO super middleweight titlist Thomas "Tommy Gun" Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs) takes on Brandon "Flawless" Gonzales (17-0, 10 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature on HBO.
"Willie Nelson is a very special kid," said Steve Smith (Rumble Time Promotions), who co-promotes Nelson with Lou DiBella. "Right after these poor women were freed, I had a long conversation with Willie, and I could tell how moved he was by what had happened to them. He wanted to honor them in some manner and Willie decided to dedicate the fight to them. What better way to do that than on HBO? He's just a caring young man who will make a statement on June 29th."
The father of two daughters, eight-year-old Constance and four-year-old Willow, Nelson was brought up in Cleveland by his four sisters, who back then were about the same ages as the kidnapped women were when they were abducted.
"I have a special place in my heart for these three courageous women," Nelson added. "I can't imagine my daughters missing for 10 years and them having to deal with what these women had to in order to survive. And we shouldn't forget about what their families went through for 10 years, either. One mother never gave up hope but, sadly, she passed away before her daughter was found. Almost everybody in Cleveland thought they were dead. The guy accused of doing this to them (Ariel Castro) was in the Cleveland news as an up-and-coming musician. I can't understand how anybody could do something like this.
"I'm so happy that they're free, but they've all missed out on their teenage years and part of their young adult lives. They've each lost part of their life that they'll never get back. I don't want people to ever forget what they went through. I hope to get that message across to America by honoring them on HBO."
Nelson also plans to wear a "Cleveland 3" patch on his trunks, a symbolic gesture that will also be displayed on the jackets of his corner-men.
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.