By Mike Coppinger

LOS ANGELES -- Jayson Velez surprised everyone by fighting Evgeny Gradovich to a draw.

Sure, most observers believed “The Mexican Russian” deserved the nod, but Velez still fought a great fight, especially over the first half.

On the heels of his breakout performance, Velez (22-0-1, 16 KOs) is in line for some more notable matchups in the loaded 126-pound weight class. However, Velez’s trainer Abel Sanchez isn’t going to let the 26-year-old bite off more than he can chew.

“I thought it was a little too early in his career for that kind of fight against that kind of fighter,” Sanchez told at Wednesday’s news conference to promote Gennady Golovkin-Martin Murray. “But when you get offered a title fight … you don’t turn it down. You find out what you have.

“And we found out what we have. We have a kid that just needs a little more seasoning, but hopefully his next fight will prove that he belongs. … He’s had it a little too easy early in his career where he didn’t have the challenges that that was.”

Since Sanchez wants Velez to develop more, who is a viable opponent in 2015?

“I think (Vasyl) Lomachenko and (Nicholas) Walters are on a different track, and I’m thinking Lomachenko and Walters are probably the two best featherweights in the division,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think that those fights are something that are in Velez’s immediate future. Maybe in the next two years. But I would venture to say as a coach that I would not want to see those fights for Velez right now.

So, who does make sense as a foe for Velez?

“I would love to see him against (Abner) Mares, I would love to see him against (Jhonny) Gonzalez. Those are the kind of fights that will show us if Velez belongs at that elite level.”

Sounds like we could find out if Velez is indeed a world class fighter soon.

Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger