He has a celebrity's name, but this Willie Nelson is looking to establish his own name identity.
A win tonight over undefeated Yudel Jhonson in the 10-round main event of the Warriors Boxing fight card at Texas Station would give Nelson, a 6-foot-3-inch junior middleweight from Cleveland, a big boost toward that end.
"This is a great opportunity for me to show that I belong here," Nelson said. "If I weren't training, I'd be concerned. But I've been in the gym the whole time, so I'll be ready."
Nelson (17-1-1, 11 knockouts) replaced Freddy Hernandez, who had to pull out last week with an unspecified injury. Nelson had a fight scheduled for next weekend, but when Jhonson (12-0, eight KOs), a former Cuban amateur star and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics, agreed to fight at a catch weight of 152 pounds, Nelson stepped in.
"I couldn't turn this down," Nelson said. "I've been boxing since I was four. I got to get there someway."
"There" is to challenge for a world title at 154 pounds. Jack Loew, who manages and trains Nelson, said a win tonight would put his fighter well ahead of schedule.
"To be honest, this was the kind of fight I was looking for eight, nine months from now," said Loew, better known for having trained former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. "But Willie is ready for a fight like this."
Nelson, who has a reach of 76 inches, said in the year that Loew has been training him he has learned a couple of important things that have made him a better fighter.
"Jack's taught me how to be patient in the ring," he said. "I try to take my time and do everything right.
"The other thing I've learned from Jack is if you don't do something in training or in sparring, don't do it in the fight. Just stick with the game plan."
Nelson, by the way, isn't a country music fan, but he is aware of Willie Nelson the singer.
"Yeah, I get asked all the time if I'm named after him; the answer is 'No,' " he said. "But I'm happy with my (boxing) career so far. I'm only 25. I've got plenty of time to become famous."
The bout will be televised on Showtime (Cable 240) on tape delay beginning at 11 p.m. First bell for the card, which also features local super middleweight Badou Jack along with Las Vegas super featherweights Robert Osiobe, Jesus Gutierrez and Jimmy Jones, is 6:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.