Ruiz, Verdejo added to Macau card
Promising heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr. and blue-chip junior lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo have been added to the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios card in Macau, China, rounding out the five-bout pay-per-view telecast, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs), the 34-year-old Filipino icon and former eight-division titleholder who is coming off a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December, faces former lightweight titlist Rios (31-1-1, 22 KOs), 27, of Oxnard, Calif., in a scheduled 12-round fight that headlines an HBO PPV card Nov. 23 at the CotaiArena at The Venetian Macao in Macau.
The fast-handed Ruiz (20-0, 14 KOs), 24, of Mexico, whom Top Rank has high hopes for, will be in one of the featured fights. Ruiz -- who also fought in Macau in his previous bout, in which he drilled previously undefeated prospect Joe Hanks in the fourth round July 27 -- will face 30-year-old New Yorker Tor Hamer (21-2, 14 KOs). Hamer has scored a pair of early knockouts against low-level opponents this year following a knockout loss to 2008 Ukrainian Olympic bronze medalist Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov in December in a fight in which Hamer simply quit after the fourth round.
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"People opened their eyes there [in Macau] and in the U.S. when they saw Andy Ruiz against Hanks and realized that he can be a serious contender in the division in 2014," Moretti said. "He's got the fastest hands I've seen in that division since [former titleholder] Michael Dokes, outside of Mike Tyson. And Andy is deceiving because when you see him physically, you don't equate what you see to speed. But his power is from his speed and his legs, and he can box, too, so I love it.
"He's not going to win a Mr. Universe contest, but he is going to win the heavyweight championship one day."
The 20-year-old Verdejo (8-0, 6 KOs) is a charismatic 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian with good power and a fan-friendly style. He already is forging a strong fan following in Puerto Rico after just eight fights and will open the pay-per-view telecast in a scheduled six-round fight against an opponent to be determined. Because he is already so popular in Puerto Rico, Top Rank believes his presence on the card will add pay-per-view buys on the island.
"There's no question that next to Miguel Cotto, Verdejo is probably the most recognized [active] Puerto Rican fighter, even more so than established 10-round guys," Moretti said. "Puerto Rico has always performed well when it comes to Manny's pay-per-views, so putting Verdejo on the card just adds to it."
Verdejo looked extremely sharp in scoring a second-round knockout against Gary Eyer on Oct. 5 in Orlando, Fla., on the undercard of Cotto's third-round knockout of Delvin Rodriguez. The heavily Puerto Rican crowd cheered Verdejo more than anyone else on the card except for Cotto.
"You'll see Verdejo in with the same type of opponent as on the Cotto card, but the big pay-per-view platform will be a little bit different for him," Moretti said. "But he was very excited when we told him we wanted him on the card in Macau. He's really looking forward to it."
The two other pay-per-view bouts had previously been announced. Featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich (17-0, 8 KOs), 27, of Russia, will face former titleholder Billy Dib (36-2, 21 KOs), 28, of Australia, in the co-feature in a rematch of Gradovich's split-decision title win in March. Both fighters won interim bouts in July to set up the rematch. Gradovich outpointed mandatory challenger Mauricio Munoz in a title defense in Macao, and Dib won a majority 10-round decision against Mike Oliver in Oliver's hometown of Hartford, Conn.
"I think the winner of Gradovich-Dib is clearly in for a big fight next year," Moretti said. "There are several fights they could fit into, be it against Nonito Donaire, [Vasyl] Lomachenko, Nicholas Walters in a unification fight or possibly [unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo] Rigondeaux moving up in weight if he beats Joseph Agbeko [on Dec. 7]. So there's a lot on the line for these guys."
In the other pay-per-view bout, Chinese national hero Zou Shiming (2-0, 0 KOs), the three-time Olympic medalist -- gold in 2012 and 2008, and bronze in 2004 -- will take on Juan Toscano (4-0 1 KO) of Mexico in a scheduled six-round bout. Initially, Top Rank was planning to move Zou, who shares Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach with Pacquiao, into an eight-round fight in his third bout but decided to give him a second six-rounder before moving him up to eight rounds next year.
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