Willie Nelson picked up his seventh straight win with a 10-round decision over Luis Grajeda in their main event Friday evening in Fallon, Nevada.
Scores were 98-92 across the board for Nelson, who seemed to have his hands full at times but outboxed Grajeda in the key moments of the fight. The scores weren't entirely reflective of what took place in the ring, although it's hard to dispute that the right guy won.
Nelson moves to 23-1-1 (13KOs); Grajeda falls to 17-3-2 (13KOs), as he is now winless in his last three fights.
Jason Escalera bumped off his second consecutive unbeaten opponent, riding a 3rd round knockdown en route to a well-earned decision win over Norbert Nemesapati in their ESPN2-televised co-feature in Fallon, Nevada.
Scores were 79-72, 78-72 and 78-73 in favor of Escalera.
The opening round threatened to go according to chalk. Nemesapati, having spent his entire career fighting in Hungary and Slovakia prior to Friday, enjoyed a strong start, but his night quickly unraveled. Escalera, once a rising prospect suddenly in desperate need of a big win, took over the fight in round two and never looked back.
A body shot led to the bout's lone knockdown, with Escalera flooring Nemesapati in round three. The threat of a knockout was briefly in the air, but Escalera eventually settled for a dominant performance throughout the final seven rounds of the bout.
With the win, Escalera improves to 15-2-1 (12KOs). A two-fight win streak - both against unbeaten opponents - follows the worst stretch of his career, in which the New Jersey native suffered all three career blemishes (two losses and a draw) in a perid spanning just under two years.
Nemesapati falls to 14-1 (13KOs) after coming up well short in his first fight in the United States.
Two-time Olympic super heavyweight Zhang Zhilei made his pro debut, though not forced to stick around for very long. Curtis Tate, a pudgy heavyweight clubfighter from Western Tennessee, showed no punch resistance as he was flattened in just 17 seconds of ring action.
Zhilei, a silver medalist for hosting nation China in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and also a member of the 2012 London Olympics, came out working his jab and straight left hand, hoping to get in some work in his celebrated first pro fight.
As it turned out, the combination was all he needed to put his first win in the books. Tate found a soft spot on the canvas the first time he tasted a power shot, falling face-first to the deck. The referee saw the action as a suggestion that the heavyweight had no interest in continuing, thus immediately ending the contest.
Zhelei moves to 1-0 (1KO). The 6'7" southpaw wasn't given enough time to prove whether or not he can properly adapt to the pro ranks. Time will certainly tell, though hopefully the competition level will improve in a hurry.
Tate heads back to Tennessee with his record now at 7-5 (6KOs). All five career losses have come by knockout, easy to understand after his display of poor punch resistance Friday evening.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox