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.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Groupe Yvon Michel, tickets priced at $89, $75, $69, $62, $59 and $40 are on sale now and can be purchased at the Turning Stone Resort Box Office, charge by phone by calling 800.771.7711 or online at Ticketmaster.