Lightweight Felix Verdejo's first bout under the tutelage of new trainer Ismael Salas on Jan. 18 will air on ESPN, Top Rank announced on Friday.
Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and the 2014 ESPN prospect of the year, will face Manuel Rey Rojas in a 10-round bout. It will be the new co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by the fight between former light heavyweight world titlist Eleider "Storm" Alvarez and Michael Seals at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York (10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET).
Verdejo-Rojas was initially supposed to be the key fight on the ESPN+ portion of the card. However, it was moved into the co-feature slot because unbeaten German heavyweight Agit Kabayel, who signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank last fall after vacating the European title, was unable to secure a visa in time for his first bout in the United States. He was supposed to face Victor Bisbal.
In mid-2019, Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs), 26, parted ways with careerlong trainer/manager Ricky Marquez to train in Las Vegas with Salas, the well-respected former Cuban amateur coach.
"I know a lot of fighters say this, but without a doubt, this has been the best training camp of my life," Verdejo said. "I have really connected with Salas. I'm definitely more motivated than ever, and I'm coming to prove that I belong at the top of the lightweight division. I'm sure that all the sacrifices I'm making will pay dividends. I will be victorious on Jan. 18, and I promise that Puerto Rico will have another world champion very soon."
Verdejo has won two fights in a row but has not boxed since a 10-round decision win over Bryan Vasquez on April 20 on the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan card in New York, mainly so he could get comfortable working with Salas, who has trained notable fighters such as Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Erislandy Lara and Jorge Linares.
Rojas (18-3, 5 KOs), 26, of Dallas, has won six fights in a row.
The previously announced main event features Alvarez (24-1, 12 KOs), 35, a Colombia native fighting out of Montreal, in his return since losing a decision and his light heavyweight world title to Sergey Kovalev in their rematch last February. The powerful Seals (24-2, 18 KOs), 37, of Mobile, Alabama, has won four fights in a row and has scored highlight-reel knockouts in his previous two fights.
Also on the ESPN+ portion of the card:
• Former junior lightweight world title challenger Christopher "Pitufo" Diaz (24-2, 16 KOs), 25, of Puerto Rico, will meet former junior featherweight world title challenger Adeilson Dos Santos (19-7, 15 KOs), 28, of Brazil, in an eight-rounder featherweight fight. The fight will be Diaz's first fight since he lost a unanimous decision to Shakur Stevenson in April. Dos Santos has lost four fights in a row and five of his last six.
"In 2020, I'll keep leaving it all in the ring," said Diaz, who lost a decision for a vacant junior lightweight belt to Masayuki Ito in July 2018. "I know that I have what it takes to become a world champion. I promised my late father and my family that I will become a world champion, and deep down I can feel that I will accomplish my dream in 2020. My family and my fans give me all the motivation that I need to keep going. I will not rest until I accomplish my dream."
• Former junior featherweight world titlist Jonathan Guzman (23-1, 22 KOs), 30, of the Dominican Republic, will face Rodolfo Hernandez (30-8-1, 28 KOs), 33, of Mexico, in an eight-round bout. The fight will be Guzman's second since he lost his world title by decision to Yukinori Oguni in December 2016. Guzman has not fought since a 10-round decision win over Roberto Castaneda in November 2018.
• Bisbal (23-4, 17 KOs), 39, a 2004 Puerto Rican Olympian, will remain on the card and will face 2004 U.S. Olympian Devin Vargas (21-6, 9 KOs), 38, a Toledo, Ohio, native, in an eight-round bout. Both of them are coming off losses, Bisbal by fourth-round knockout to unbeaten Frank Sanchez in August and Vargas by 10-round decision to Junior Fa in November.
• Junior lightweight prospect Abraham Nova (17-0, 13 KOs), 25, will fight Pedro Navarrete (30-24-3, 19 KOs), 38, of Mexico, in an eight-rounder at a contract weight of 133 pounds. Nova, who was born in Puerto Rico to Dominican parents before moving with his family -- he is one of 10 children -- to Albany, New York, when he was a baby, will be in his first fight since signing a co-promotional deal with Top Rank in December.
• Heavyweight Jared Anderson (2-0, 2 KOs), the 20-year-old standout amateur from Toledo, Ohio, who signed with Top Rank and turned pro on Oct. 26, will face Andrew Satterfield (5-3, 3 KOs), 25, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, in a four-rounder. Anderson has won his first two fights by first-round knockout.