- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Lightweight Felix Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and one of boxing's most exciting prospects, is back in action on Saturday night.
Verdejo's scheduled six-round fight against Ivan Zavala (6-5-1, 2 KOs) of Mexico at the Bahia Shrine Temple in Orlando, Fla., will open the UniMas-televised card (midnight ET, same-day tape).
The card is headlined by an all-Puerto Rican featherweight fight between Orlando Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs), who was stopped in the seventh round challenging Orlando Salido for a vacant world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard in October, and Gamilier Rodriguez (23-2-3, 16 KOs). Cruz, of course, made headlines around the world for coming out as boxing's first-ever openly gay, active fighter.
Top Rank is putting the Puerto Rican-heavy card on in Orlando because of the exceptional response it got there to the Miguel Cotto-Delvin Rodriguez show it promoted there in October. Cotto, Puerto Rico's biggest attraction, drew a raucous crowd to the Amway Center, where the NBA's Orlando Magic play.
Orlando has a significant Puerto Rican community and it turned out strong to support the card, on which the 20-year-old Verdejo (11-0, 8 KOs) also fought and drew huge cheers from the crowd. Besides fighting in places such as Puerto Rico and New York, Orlando could become a significant site for Verdejo fights in the future, especially if he develops into a top-notch fighter like so many expect him to.
"I am looking forward to going back to Orlando because we have a large community of Puerto Rican people there and they come out to support me," Verdejo said. "I also have many friends there who I have known since I was a kid.
"I have trained very hard and want to give the people a great fight. This is another important fight in my development as a fighter."
If all goes well for Verdejo, he is expected to fight June 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York on the undercard of Cotto's challenge of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.