Felix Verdejo to Fight Masayoshi Nakatani in December

Felix Verdejo will be returning to the ring next month…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional boxer and lightweight contender will fight Masayoshi Nakatani on December 12, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti has told The Athletic.

Felix Verdejo

The fight will be the co-main event of a Top Rank card at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs) was injured in a motorcycle accident in August 2016 but returned to the ring six months later and has a record of 5-1 since then, including an impressive first-round TKO victory over Will Madera in July.

Japan’s Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs) made his U.S. debut in July 2019 and was the first fighter to take Teofimo Lopez the distance, losing a hard-fought unanimous decision at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Top Rank is still looking for a replacement main event after Miguel Berchelt tested positive for COVID-19 and his fight against Oscar Valdez was postponed.

Former featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson offered to step in for Berchelt and told ESPN on Tuesday that he had asked his team to inquire about the possibility of fighting Valdez on short notice.

Top Rank Signs Jonathan Guzman

Jonathan Guzman has new representation…

Top Rank, looking to ramp up its roster due numerous dates it has under its seven-year deal with ESPN, has signed four fighters, including the 29-year-old Dominican boxer and former junior featherweight world titlist.

Jonathan Guzman

“All of these guys will fight before the end of the year and a lot more in 2019,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. “They are all in weight classes we are interested in and they are all solid fighters.”

The biggest name is Guzman (22-1, 22 KOs), who has not fought since losing his 122-pound world title by unanimous decision to Yukinori Oguni in Japan in December 2016. Guzman won a vacant belt in July 2016 by knocking out Shingo Wake in the 11th round, also in Japan, before losing it in his first defense. Moretti said Guzman will fight in either the junior featherweight or featherweight division. He could be a potential opponent for junior featherweight world titlist Isaac Dogboe or featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez.

“I am excited and fortunate to be given this opportunity by Top Rank,” Guzman said. “This will give me better opportunities in the boxing world. I want to get back to the championship level, and I know Top Rank can get me there.”

Also signing with Top Rank are middleweight Tyler Howard (15-0, 10 KOs), junior welterweight Michael Perez (25-2-2, 11 KOs) and lightweight Eric Puente (0-0).

Howard, 24, of Crossville, Tennessee, has fought mostly as a super middleweight but will drop down in weight to middleweight. He has not yet faced a notable opponent. “Signing with the premier promotional company in the sport of boxing is a huge accomplishment for my team and I,” Howard said. “I trust that my career is in great hands with my manager (Tim Van Newhouse) and Top Rank. I know my team will present me with many opportunities to catapult my career into world contention status.”

Perez, 28, of Newark, New Jersey, who has not boxed since April 2017, has had several televised fights and faced tough opposition at lightweight and junior welterweight but lost to his two best opponents by sixth-round knockout — former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa Jr.in 2012 and Petr Petrov in lightweight title-elimination bout in 2016. Perez is coming off a 10-round, split-decision victory against Marcelino Lopez.

“I have always respected the way they treat their fighters,” Perez said of Top Rank. “I look forward to adding value and excitement to their already amazing shows.”

Puente, 19, who was born in Mexico and fights out of Vista, California, won a gold medal at the 2016 USA Boxing Youth Championships at 132 pounds. He is turning pro under the management of David McWater‘s Split-T Management, which also represents fighters such as junior welterweight contender Ivan Baranchyk and top prospects Teofimo Lopez, a lightweight, and junior middleweight Charles Conwell, both 2016 Olympians.

“This is an exciting chapter in my life, and I want to make my family and fans happy and hopefully one day become world champion,” said Puente, who likely would have been a contender to make the 2020 Olympic team had he remained amateur. “I know I have the very best promotional company behind me.

“Boxing is everything to me. I live, eat and sleep boxing 24/7. Boxing is always on my mind. When the boxing world sees me fight, they will see an old-school warrior that will do everything he can to come out victorious. I take a lot from all the great fighters of the past like Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Sugar Ray Leonard, and put into me, Eric Puente, future superstar in boxing.”

Raymundo Beltran to Defend His WBO Lightweight Title Against Roman Andreev

Raymundo Beltran is ready to defend his title…

The 36-year-old Mexican professional boxer, the reigning WBO lightweight word titleholder, will face Russian mandatory challenger Roman Andreev on August 25 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, not far from Beltran’s home base in Phoenix.

Raymundo Beltran / Ray Beltran

The fight, which will be the main event of a Top Rank Boxingon ESPN card, was squared away on Tuesday when Carl Moretti, vice president of Top Rank, which is Beltran’s promoter, won the purse bid for the fight with an offer of $252,000 at the WBO offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Top Rank was the only bidder. Andreev’s promoter, Patriot Promotions, did not attend the purse bid as it is not registered with the WBO and, therefore, was not eligible to bid on the fight.

Beltran is entitled to 75 percent of the bid ($189,000) and Andreev will receive 25 percent ($63,000).

“It’s probably a very tough and competitive fight,” Moretti said. “It’s probably the kind of all-action fight Ray Beltran is usually in. I don’t see this fight being much different than the usual fights Ray is in. Andreev is a strong, come-forward fighter with full intentions of winning the title and taking it back to Russia, which would not please [Top Rank chairman] Mr. [Bob] Arum.”

Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs won a vacant 135-pound world title in his fourth chance on February 16 when he outpointed Paulus Moses in a bruising battle in Reno, Nevada.

Beltran will be making his first defense against Andreev (21-0, 15 KOs).

Andreev, 32, who has not faced a top opponent in his 10-year career, will be fighting in the United States for the third time. He boxed in the U.S. twice in 2010, including on the Andre WardSakio Bika undercard in Oakland, California.

After Beltran won the belt and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko moved up in weight from junior lightweight and knocked out Jorge Linares on May 12 to win a lightweight world title, Top Rank planned to match them in a title unification bout on August 25.

However, Lomachenko suffered a torn labrum in the bout with Linares and had surgery. He will not be back in the ring until at least the fall. Top Rank then hoped to match Beltran with lightweight contender Jose Pedraza, a former junior lightweight world titlist it had recently signed. However, once the unification bout was off the table, Andreev’s camp pressed for the mandatory fight, according to Top Rank, and the WBO ordered the bout.

If Beltran wins on August 25, he could face Lomachenko near the end of the year in the unification fight. Moretti said that if Andreev wins he could be offered the unification fight.