Top Rank has finalized the April 20 ESPN pay-per-view undercard beneath the Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan main event at Madison Square Garden.
As previously discussed, lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez will face former European champion Edis Tatli, and featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson will face former world title challenger Christopher Diaz. Both are respectable next steps for the two budding young stars.
The opener on the pay-per-view will feature Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo (24-1, 16 KO), a guy who was once thought to be a potential future superstar himself, but through various setbacks and some questions about his drive, has sort of fallen by the wayside at age 25.
Verdejo was dropped and stopped by Antonio Lozada Jr in a fight on St. Patrick’s Day 2018, and had somewhat labored through some prior performances, albeit in winning efforts. He turned in November with a second round knockout of journeyman Yardley Armenta Cruz.
On April 20, he’ll face a tougher test again in 31-year-old veteran Bryan Vasquez (37-3, 20 KO). Vasquez is a former interim titleholder at 130 and challenged Takashi Uchiyama in 2012, losing via eighth round TKO. His other losses have come via decision to Javier Fortuna and Ray Beltran.
Vasquez is no world-beater, but he’s a quality fighter and good enough to seriously challenge or even beat the Verdejo we’ve seen on various nights.
Verdejo says that he’s focused on winning a world title this year:
“I’m going into this new challenge ready to demonstrate my skills against a world-class fighter. I hope that this fight will open the doors to big fights. I want to bring a world championship to Puerto Rico, and this is the year.”
But Vasquez doesn’t think that Verdejo really has it what it takes:
“In order for me to lose to Verdejo, he’s going to have to kill me. In order for him to kill me, he’s going to have to be willing to die with me. And he’s already shown that he’s not willing to die in there.”
As for the other two fights, again, I think they’re both quite solid. Lopez (12-0, 10 KO) is on the rocketship to stardom if he keeps performing the way he has, and he’ll obviously be the favorite against Tatli (31-2, 10 KO), a solid but unexceptional professional. Stevenson (10-0, 6 KO) is a very good prospect, and Diaz (24-1, 16 KO) figures to be his first real test as a pro.