One of the premier up-and-coming boxers in the junior middleweight division will be fighting in Warren come September.
The only question is who will be his opponent.
Willie Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KOs) has a fight scheduled for Sept. 28 at Packard Music Hall, and Niles native Billy Lyell may be the man on the other end of the ring, according to Nelson's trainer, Jack Loew, of the Southside Boxing Club.
Loew said the disbursement of money is the only hold-up for the veteran Lyell (25-11) being the opponent for the 26-year-old Nelson, the North American Boxing Federation champion.
"Billy approached us after he found out we were having a fight there," said Loew, the former trainer of the retired Kelly Pavlik. "He offered his services to fight Willie Nelson. He named the price, we agreed with him. Now we gave him till Wednesday to agree with everything."
The problems, Loew said, occurred after the tentative agreement was reached because Lyell wanted to renegotiate in a few areas. Lyell didn't comment on specifics but agreed that money was the only hang-up at this point.
"I'll fight anybody at the right price," said the 28-year-old Lyell, a 2002 Niles High School graduate who said Pavlik will be in his corner if the fight happens. "It basically comes down to money. How much money is in it for a fight like this? Without TV or a casino or something, it might be hard to come up with the kind of purse to get the fight done. You never know. It's hard to say."
Lyell last fought in February and won a unanimous decision over Rashaan Abdul Blackburn. Lyell once upset previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked fighter John Duddy in 2009, and he has experience against world champion boxers.
Nelson, of Cleveland, is coming off a huge win in a HBO-televised fight against Luciano Leonel Cuello (32-3) on June 29. Cuello's only other two losses came to world champion fighters Saul Canelo Alvarez, who takes on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., son of the Mexican legend. Nelson, who won in a unanimous decision against Cuello, stands 6 feet 3 and holds an 81-inch reach, an incredible advantage against almost anyone who weighs 154 pounds. He's been boxing since he was 10 and has more than 250 fights under his belt.
Loew believes Nelson has all the tools to become the next world champion from Ohio.
"He's got a lot of attributes - his height, his reach, his amateur experience," Loew said. "The kid has the whole package. It's just a matter of fine tuning it and putting it all together."
The only area lacking for Nelson is taking care of his body, Loew said. His amazing natural strength and athleticism allow him to eat pretty much whatever he wants. He admitted in a recent article that he eats fast food on a regular basis. Loew fears such bad eating habits will catch up with Nelson in a marquee fight.
"That's what I'm trying to get across to Willie," Loew said. "There are little things. You have to learn how to adjust during a fight. You have to learn to eat better like a professional athlete.
"I still think he's going to be a world champ because what he has to improve on is very minute," Loew added. "It's not going out, it's not doing any bad things like drugs or alcohol - it's nothing like that. And it's not really physical, like being able to take a punch or throw a punch. Those are all there. Everything major is there with this kid. It's just the little fine things that will cost him in the big dance. I know. I've been there."
Loew said Nelson already has another HBO fight in the works, but the exact date of what he expects to be a showdown with one of the world's top fighters hasn't been determined (he's assuming November or December). So, the matchup with Lyell is more of a tune-up, Loew said.
"We didn't want him to sit around," said Loew of why he and Nelson's promoters, Steve Smith and Lou DiBella of Rumble Time Promotions, wanted another fight. "That's why we're taking this fight. Whether it's Billy or whether it's Humpty Dumpty, we're taking this fight to stay busy. If Willie was the junior middleweight champion of the world and he was making millions of dollars, I'd say, 'You know what, we're going to wait for HBO in November and we'll worry about it then.' But he's a young kid, he's got a lot to learn and you don't learn by sitting on the bench."
Loew said he will know by Wednesday whether Lyell will be Nelson's opponent.