Top Rank’s February 20th ESPN doubleheader, which sees Miguel Berchelt defend his WBC super featherweight title against Oscar Valdez and Stockton youngster Gabriel Flores Jr. face veteran Jayson Velez, will feature a stout prelim lineup on ESPN+.
The featured bout pits 2012 Olympic silver medalist Esquiva Falcao (27-0, 19 KO) against two-time middleweight title challenger Artur Akavov (20-3, 9 KO). Falcao has done jack and squat during his seven years as a professional; Akavov, who gave Billy Joe Saunders all kinds of problems in 2016 but had absolutely nothing for Demetrius Andrade just over two years later, represents the sort of step-up veteran opponent Falcao should have started fighting in like 2017.
I suppose Yamaguchi Falcao’s issues still haunt their promoters.
Falcao said, “I am ready to face the best in my division. My opponent is a good boxer, but I am better, and I am ready to become a world champion. No fighter will stop me. I’m training very hard with Robert García. I’m sparring with the best because I am one of the best. On February 20, I will show the world once again that I am ready to become a world champion.”
The other major attraction sees top welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez (10-0-1, 10 KO), who emerged as one of The Bubble’s most consistently entertaining attractions last year, face Argentina’s Luis Alberto Veron (18-2-2, 9 KO). “Lucho” has fought outside his home country twice, dropping decisions to unbeaten Michael McKinson and Taras Shelestyuk; though neither stopped him, McKinson did force a pair of counts.
Rodriguez said, “I want to show that I am ready for the big fights. I think I deserved to be the Prospect of the Year. Not being named Prospect of the Year has motivated me more than ever. I am here to become a world champion. I am very grateful for the opportunities Top Rank is giving me and my entire team’s efforts. I am going to show who I am through my actions in the ring, not through words or social media.”
Also on tap is Puerto Rican wunderkind Xander Zayas (6-0, 5 KO), who fights Philly welterweight James Martin (6-1, 0 KO).
“Since my last fight, I’ve had an extended camp and have been fortunate to spar numerous world champions and top fighters, which has provided me a wealth of experience,” Zayas said. “I’m excited to fight on February 20 and put on a show for my fans.”
The rest of the lineup includes 22-year-old lightweight Bryan Lua (7-0, 3 KO) against fellow unbeaten Frevian Gonzalez (4-0, 1 KO), heavyweight Sonny Conto (6-0, 5 KO) taking on Bubble veteran Waldo Cortes Acosta (6-3, 3 KO), middleweight Javier Martinez (2-0, 0 KO) meeting Billy Wagner (3-1, 1 KO), and Puerto Rican amateur great Omar Rosario (2-0, 0 KO) hitting Vegas for the first time oppositewelterweight Uriel Villanueva (1-0, 0 KO).