Puerto Rican superstar Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo, inching closer to a lightweight world title shot, will see action on a special Top Rank on ESPN show Saturday, Jan. 18 from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y.
In the 10-round co-feature to the light heavyweight main event featuring former world champion Eleider “Storm” Alvarez and Michael “Cannon Handz” Seals (ESPN and ESPN App (in Spanish), 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), Verdejo will fight Manuel Rey Rojas, his first bout since linking up with new trainer Ismael Salas.
“This is a great opportunity for Felix Verdejo to show everyone that he is ready for a world title opportunity in 2020,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “He has a great new trainer and a chance to reclaim his position as one of the sport’s best young fighters.”
“I know a lot of fighters say this, but without a doubt, this has been the best training camp of my life,” Verdejo said. “I have really connected with Salas. I’m definitely more motivated than ever, and I’m coming to prove that I belong at the top of the lightweight division. I’m sure that all the sacrifices I’m making will pay dividends. I will be victorious on Jan. 18, and I promise that Puerto Rico will have another world champion very soon.”
Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs), at only 26 years old, is looking for a fresh start in 2020 with a new team. Once touted as the next Hall of Fame talent from Puerto Rico, a 2016 motorcycle accident and a 2018 TKO defeat to Antonio Lozada Jr. derailed the hype train. Verdejo has won two in a row since the Lozada loss, most recently outclassing Bryan Vasquez last April over 10 rounds. He officially joined forces with Salas in November and moved his training base to Las Vegas to find better sparring. Salas has trained a host of world champions in recent years, including Yuriorkis Gamboa, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Erislandy Lara and Jorge Linares. Rojas (18-3, 5 KOs) has won six in a row since a 2015 KO defeat.
In action on the ESPN+ undercard stream (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT):
Former junior lightweight world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (24-2, 16 KOs) will fight former junior featherweight world title challenger Adeilson “Dell” Dos Santos (19-7, 15 KOs) in an eight-rounder at featherweight. This is Diaz’s first fight since he lost a unanimous decision to Shakur Stevenson last April on the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan televised pay-per-view undercard.
“In 2020, I’ll keep leaving it all in the ring,” Diaz said. “I know that I have what it takes to become a world champion. I promised my late father and my family that I will become a world champion, and deep down I can feel that I will accomplish my dream in 2020. My family and my fans give me all the motivation that I need to keep going. I will not rest until I accomplish my dream.”
2004 Puerto Rican Olympian Victor Bisbal (23-4, 17 KOs) will clash with 2004 U.S. Olympian Devin Vargas (21-6, 9 KOs) in an eight-round heavyweight battle.
In his second bout since losing his world title, former IBF junior featherweight world champion Jonathan “Salomon King” Guzman (23-1, 22 KOs) will face Rodolfo Hernandez (30-8-1, 28 KOs) in an eight-rounder.
Top Rank’s newly signed super featherweight contender Abraham “El Super” Nova (17-0, 13 KOs) will fight Pedro Navarrete (30-24-3, 19 KOs) in a bout scheduled for eight rounds at a 133-pound catchweight.
Heavyweight phenom Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson (2-0, 2 KOs) will face Andrew Satterfield (5-3, 3 KOs) in a four-rounder.