Monday, October 8, 2012
Top Rank signs Felix Verdejo
By Dan Rafael
For the past 20 years, promoter Bob Arum and his Top Rank staff have an exceptional track record when it comes signing and developing prospects out of the Olympics.
And now they hope they have picked right again, announcing the signing of 19-year-old lightweight Felix Verdejo to a promotional contract on Monday.
Verdejo, who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics, signed a multiyear promotional deal with Top Rank, which was announced Monday at a news conference in his hometown of San Juan.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Verdejo's pro debut is not scheduled but likely will come in December.
Verdejo, a lanky fighter with a solid jab, won two fights in the Olympic tournament before losing in the quarterfinals to Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko, who went on to win the gold medal after having also won featherweight gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"My wish is to become a good professional fighter and make my country proud of my accomplishments. I know that Top Rank is the right company to take me where I want to go," said Verdejo, who plans to train in Puerto Rico. "This is a very happy day for me because I have always dreamed of being a professional boxer and I am looking forward to this next step in my career.
"I know people in Puerto Rico got to know me because of the Olympics and I hope they will continue to support me as a professional."
Manager Ricky Marquez completed the deal with Top Rank's Carl Moretti on Saturday.
"I am very pleased to have Felix sign with Top Rank," Marquez said. "They have a long and outstanding tradition in developing and promoting fighters and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with them."
Top Rank's history signing Olympic fighters has been a strong suit, including signing three fighters it was instrumental in building into significant multi-divisional champions and major pay-per-view stars: Americans Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto.
De La Hoya won gold in 1992, Mayweather claimed bronze in 1996 and although Cotto lost in the opening round of the tournament in 2000, Top Rank had him pegged as its top prospect. Top Rank also signed Cotto's teammate Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, who went on to win world titles in two weight classes and spent years ranked among the top 20 pound-for-pound in the sport.
After the 2004 Olympics, Top Rank signed Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez, who won titles in two weight classes and became an attraction in Puerto Rico, and American Vanes Martirosyan, who remains undefeated and is one of the world's top junior middleweight contenders.
The jury is still out on Top Rank's 2008 Olympic signee, Russian middleweight Matvey Korobov, who is still undefeated but has had injuries and not developed as quickly as many thought he would.
"Top Rank and Bob Arum have a great track record with boxers they debut and then take to the top, and I will work hard to become one of those boxers," Verdejo said.
Top Rank was one of multiple promotional outfits looking to sign Verdejo, including rival Golden Boy Promotions.
"Felix is a young, exciting athlete who won many gold medals as an amateur. Between his pedigree and our expertise in developing champions, we anticipate the evolution of Puerto Rico's next future star," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said.
"Our strategy is based on a fighter's ability -- which is most important -- and his marketability and we target a select group that we think could have those key ingredients. I think the fact that Verdejo comes from the incredible boxing hotbed of Puerto Rico identifies his marketability and from the boxing side of it, our internal team (including Moretti and matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad "Abdul" Goodman) was very high on him in terms of ability. He has a maturity that we believe will transfer well over to the pro ranks."
Verdejo, a right-hander who was 104-17 as an amateur, began boxing at age 13 and gained notice in 2009 by claiming a gold medal in an international youth tournament in Ecuador. In 2011, his accomplishments included winning a Puerto Rican national amateur championship, winning gold in the Golden Belt Tournament in Ecuador and reaching the quarterfinals in the Pan-American Games.
Earlier this year, Verdejo won a gold medal in the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Brazil.