By Rick Reeno
At last year's London Olympics, Puerto Rican prospect Felix Verdejo (8-0, 6KOs) lost in the quarterfinals to Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine with a score of 14-9. Verdejo turned pro later in the year and signed a promotional contract with Top Rank.
Lomachenko, who took home the gold in the 2012 and 2008 Olympic games, made a decision to turn pro a few months ago and also signed a promotional contract with Top Rank.
Later tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Lomachenko will have his first pro match, over ten rounds at featherweight, against a very experienced pro in Jose Ramirez (25-3, 15KOs). Ramirez has never been stopped and scored an upset twelve round decision over Rey Bautista in April.
If Lomachenko wins, there are already plans to match him against tonight's winner between Orlando Salido and Orlando Cruz, who battle for the vacant WBO featherweight title. That fight could come as early as January 25th.
Although Lomachenko has an amateur record of 396-1, Verdejo is very surprised with how fast the two-time gold medal winner wants to be moved. Top Rank did not want Lomachenko to be moved this fast with an ten round debut against an opponent with this much experience, but the boxer himself demanded such a contest.
"I think he is moving a little quick, because it's not the same. The pros and the amateurs are a completely different thing. I thought he was going to have a couple of fights first, before having a tough fight like that [with Ramirez]...to see the difference with the pro ranks like the gloves and everything else," Verdejo told BoxingScene.com.
Even in the amateur ranks, everyone who faced the Ukrainian fighter saw the high quality of his skills. The young Puerto Rican admits Lomachenko was by far his toughest opponent as an amateur fighter.
"He is a very strong opponent, fast, and explosive. He had a lot more experience than me at the time. He was my toughest fight as an amateur," Verdejo said.