From Reno to China, to Hungary and Las Vegas, this year’s edition of the Fallon Fights brings new style and flavor today to the Churchill County Fairgrounds.
Not to mention a title contender many mix-up with a legendary country singer.
The fights kick off at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5 p.m.) and feature at least three bouts to be broadcast on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights.”
This year’s edition also brings a winning touch to the six-fight card. Eleven of the 12 boxers sport winning records except for Zhang Zhilei of China, who is making his pro debut in a heavyweight bout against Curtis Lee Tate (7-4, 6 KOs) of Oakland, Tenn.
The main event, meanwhile, pits the fifth-ranked fighter in the World Boxing Council (WBC) who shares a name with a living legend, although this Willie Nelson is aiming to bring another association with his name.
Nelson (22-1-1, 13 KOs) battles Luis Grajeda of Chihuahua, Mexico, in a 10-round light middleweight bout.
“Coming into this fight, I trained how I normally train,” Nelson said. “A lot of fighters with a Mexican background come straight forward. I think it’s going to be an easier fight, but I expect a war.”
Nelson, who was ranked No. 3 but slid down the rankings due to inactivity in the ring. He averages two to three fights per year and it has become difficult to find a worthy challenger.
Nevertheless, Nelson said he is confident in his preparation for his first outdoor bout.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he added. “As long as it’s not raining or any thunderstorms, I’ll be alright.”
Zhang, meanwhile, is not only making his pro debut but his first fight in the U.S. He is scheduled to open the broadcast against Tate in a four-round fight. Zhang, who won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, said he too has trained hard for the elements and is looking forward to putting on a show.
Zhang signed with Dynasty Boxing Promotions after developing a relationship with co-founders Dino Duva and Terry and Tommy Lane.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Zhang has been in the U.S. for five months training and is ready to test the pro waters.
“My expectation is to perform my best and hopes everyone enjoys the fight,” Zhang said through an interpreter. “It’s going to be a challenge (fighting outside), but it won’t be a problem.”
With all the unfamiliar faces there is one, however, who is no stranger to the Fallon Fights. Oscar Vasquez of Reno has fought — and won — three times at the fairgrounds.
“I’m ready man,” he added. “I have a lot of support and a lot of people come down.”
Vasquez (6-1, 1KO) is for a grudge match against Sergio Lopez (2-1-1) of Las Vegas in a six-round flyweight fight. Lopez beat Santos Vasquez, Oscar Vasquez’s brother, in December 2013 in Las Vegas.
All though the Vasquez-Lopez fight will not be aired, Vasquez said he wants to put on show in hopes of generating more buzz about his skills.
“I believe my brother beat him, but it was in Vegas,” Vasquez said. “Finally, we got this fight. Every fight is a big deal, but this is going to be the biggest card for me.”
As for the rest of the TV schedule, Norbert Nemesapati (14-0, 13 KOs) of Hungary takes on Jason Escalera (14-2-1, 12KOs) of Union City, N.J. in the eight-round TV co-main event.
Time permitting, the TV swing fight features Eduardo Alicea (7-0, 3 KOs) of Cleveland, Ohio, and Kirk Huff (3-0, 1 KO) in a fight slated for either four or six rounds.
The final fight, second on the card, however, pits Joel Diaz Jr. (16-0, 12 KOs) of Palmdale, Calif., against Kevin Aguilar (8-1-1, 1 KO) of Potosi, Mexico in an eight-round super featherweight bout.