By Keith Idec
Felix Verdejo could get that elusive shot at the WBO lightweight title after all.
Promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com that if Ray Beltran beats Paulus Moses to win the vacant WBO 135-pound championship Friday night, his first defense could come against the undefeated Verdejo. Puerto Rico’s Verdejo (23-0, 15 KOs) first would need to defeat Mexico’s Antonio Lozada Jr. (38-2, 32 KOs) on March 17 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re looking to see how Verdejo does in March in his comeback,” Arum said. “And if he does well, we would put Beltran in with Verdejo for the lightweight title. And then, maybe later on, if Beltran was successful maybe have him fight Lomachenko.”
Phoenix’s Beltran (34-7-1, 21 KOs) also could become Vasyl Lomachenko’s next opponent if Arum’s Top Rank Inc. cannot come to an agreement with Golden Boy Promotions and Teiken Promotions to make a Lomachenko-Jorge Linares fight for Linares’ WBA lightweight title (https://www.boxingscene.com/arum-wants-bring-lomachenko-vs-linares-msg-on-12--125226). Arum added that if Lomachenko-Linares gets made for May 12 at Madison Square Garden, unlikely according to Golden Boy president Eric Gomez, Beltran-Verdejo could be the other televised fight that night.
The 36-year-old Beltran is heavily favored to beat Namibia’s Moses (40-3-1, 25 KOs) in a 12-round encounter ESPN will televise Friday night from Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada (9 p.m. ET).
The 24-year-old Verdejo hasn’t fought since out-pointing Oliver Flores (27-3-2, 17 KOs) in their 10-rounder a year ago in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 2012 Olympian’s progress has been obstructed by training issues and injuries, including several suffered during a motorcycle accident in August 2016.
That setback cost Verdejo a mandated shot at England’s Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs), then the WBO lightweight champ. Flanagan moved up to 140 pounds and gave up the title for which the No. 1-rated Beltran and the No. 2-ranked Moses will fight.
Verdejo was supposed to face Lozada on September 22 in Tucson, Arizona, but their fight was postponed because Verdejo reportedly sustained a wrist injury in training camp. Due to his inactivity, Verdejo, once the WBO’s No. 1 lightweight contender, isn’t listed in its most recent rankings.
Arum and his matchmakers will decide how to move forward with Verdejo based on how he looks against Lozada.
“I’ve always been very, very high on him,” Arum said. “The guy who really sold me on him was Lomachenko, who told me he was the best fighter he fought in the amateurs. Well that’s high praise. Whether he’s lived up to his expectations in the pro ranks, with the injuries and all that, we’ll have to see.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.