Former junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade, who was stripped of his belt because of inactivity and has fought just once since June 2014, is aiming to reintroduce himself to the boxing public when he takes on contender Willie Nelson in a world title elimination bout June 11.
The fight, which will be part of a Showtime-televised tripleheader (9 p.m. ET) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, will put the winner in position to challenge the winner of the vacant title bout between Jermell Charlo (27-0, 12 KOs) and John Jackson (20-2, 15 KOs), who meet May 21 in Las Vegas.
"I'm confident, and I know I'm the best 154-pounder out there, and this fight right here is going to let people know that I'm back in business," Andrade said on Monday at a media luncheon in New York announcing the fight. "Everybody knows the work that I've put in. The time is now, and the time is coming. I'm ready to reintroduce myself to boxing fans and show them I'm the best 154-pounder in the world."
Also added to the card as the televised opener was a vacant lightweight world title bout between Dejan Zlaticanin (21-0, 14 KOs), 31, of Montenegro, and Emiliano Marsili (32-0-1, 14 KOs), 39, of Italy. The card takes place the night before the annual International Boxing Hall of Fame inductions minutes away in Canastota, New York.
Andrade (22-0, 15 KOs), a former world amateur champion and 2008 U.S. Olympian, outpointed Vanes Martirosyan to win a vacant world title in 2013. He defended it once, by one-sided seventh-round knockout of mandatory challenger Brian Rose in June 2014.
Since then Andrade, a 28-year-old southpaw from Providence, Rhode Island, has fought only once, a non-televised second-round knockout of a little-known fighter, Dario Fabian Pucheta, in October. Andrade has had a long layoff largely because he has turned down fights and had problems with co-promoters Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions and Star Boxing's Joe DeGuardia.
But they are on the same page now, and Andrade said he is happy to be getting back into the ring in a meaningful fight.
"I'm not worried about ring rust," Andrade said. "I stayed in the gym like a true champion should. I'm still young in the game, so I don't think I should have any problems seeing or ducking any punches. After this fight with Willie Nelson, I plan on fighting the winner of Jermell Charlo and John Jackson and getting that WBC belt. And after that, I want to face the rest of the division and prove I'm the best."
Nelson (25-2-1, 15 KOs), 28, of Cleveland, got the fight when Charles Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs), who was supposed to face Andrade in the eliminator, and his promoter, Don King, could not come to terms. Nelson was next in line. Since a 10-round decision loss to Martirosyan in 2014, Nelson has won two fights in a row, including a ninth-round upset knockout of then-unbeaten red-hot prospect Tony Harrison last July on ESPN. Nelson also owns a 2012 unanimous decision win against Jackson.
"Willie Nelson, he's going to come in and he's going to try and throw those power shots," Andrade said. "He's going to try to stomp me down and make a statement, but I've been doing this for too long. I'm just ready to be where I need to be, where I deserve to be, and that's on the top."
The card will be headlined by the previously announced fight between former junior welterweight titleholder Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs) and John Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs). Both are noted brawlers who have both participated in a fight of the year, and Provodnikov will be in his first fight since signing an exclusive contract with Showtime.
Zlaticanin, a mandatory challenger, was supposed to face titleholder Jorge Linares this month. But when Linares fractured his right hand, the fight, which had not been formally announced, was canceled and Linares was stripped of the title. Linares was named a titleholder "in recess" and can challenge the Zlaticanin-Marsili winner upon his return if he elects to.
Zlaticanin, a southpaw, will be coming off a one-year layoff following an impressive fourth-round knockout of favored Ivan Redkach in a title eliminator last June.
Marsili, unknown outside of Italy, won a unanimous decision against former junior lightweight titleholder Gamaliel Diaz in his last fight, which took place in August in Italy.