Demetrius Andrade made it clear coming into Saturday’s title eliminator fight that it was a “make or break” moment for him.
The 27-year-old Providence, R.I., southpaw and former Olympian had fought less than 10 rounds in the last two-plus years due to logistic reasons. By all rights, he should have been rusty.
But Andrade came out on a mission against a tall, lanky and dangerous Willie Nelson, looking to show the crowd at the events Center at Turning Stone Hotel and Casino that physically and mentally, the layoff not only didn’t hurt him but actually helped him.
Andrade put on a boxing clinic, landing combinations throughout the fight as he dropped Nelson four times, including twice in the 12th round before referee Richard Pakozdi stopped it at 1:38 of the final round, keeping Andrade undefeated at 23-0 (16 KOs).
All three judges had scored it a shutout at the time of the stoppage.
“I’m still young, tall, black and handsome,” Andrade said. “I’m young enough and my reaction time is still going. Willie Nelson is a true champion. He pushed me to the limit where I had to figure out what punches to throw. But I put the pieces of the puzzle together and got the knockout, baby.”
Andrade’s promoter, Artie Pelullo, said, “I thought he looked terrific. We all knew he had talent, but now he fought a tough guy in title rounds and went right through him.”
Andrade is the mandatory for WBC 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, but they will not fight next, as Charlo must fight another mandatory, Charles Hatley.
Pelullo said after the fight he was going to talk to Showtime about Andrade taking on WBO 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara next, and then the winner would fight Charlo to unify the titles.
As for Nelson, who fell to 25-3-1 (15 KOs), he’s not sure where he’s headed, but retirement is not one of the options.
“He was tough. I was forcing my shots too much. I felt like I was I was getting back into the fight, but he was crafty and mobile. I am ready for whatever is next and, despite what happened tonight, I am here to stay,” Nelson said. “My career won’t end like this.”
Written by Bob Velin