Top prospect Verdejo to fight Feb. 28

Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo, the 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year, is ready for his 2015 debut.

It will come against Mexico's Marco Antonio Lopez on Feb. 28 (UniMas) at The Corral in the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Top Rank announced on Friday.

The 21-year-old Verdejo (16-0, 12 KOs) will fight Lopez (24-5, 15 KOs) in a scheduled eight-round bout.

"I want to give the fans in Tampa a great fight so they can enjoy it just like the fans in Orlando have enjoyed my fights," Verdejo said. "I'm very grateful for all the love and support that the fans in Florida have given me. I want to see the Orlando fans in Tampa, because [it] is not that far."

Said Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti: "We love fighting in the state of Florida, which is obviously becoming a hotbed for Verdejo. We are hoping to get rounds out of this match with Lopez much like we were trying to get towards the end of 2014. This is the first fight in a big year to come."

Lopez has a lot of experience and has faced top-level opponents, including losing a 10-round decision to former world titleholder Takahiro Ao in April 2014 and getting stopped by lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell in the sixth round in October 2013.

"We expect a strong and experienced opponent," Verdejo said. "That's what we are looking for. We don't want easy fights. We want fights that will make me work and use all my tools in the ring."

Top Rank said that the fight Lopez will be Verdejo's last scheduled eight-round bout, meaning he will move into scheduled 10-rounders.

In the co-feature, 20-year-old junior welterweight prospect Julian Rodriguez (8-0, 7 KOs), of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, will face Raul Tovar (14-8-1, 4 KOs).