After more than 13 months away from the ring, FELIX ‘El Diamante’ VERDEJO makes his long-awaited return on March 17 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Verdejo (23-0, 15 KOs), from San Juan, Puerto Rico, will face Antonio Lozada, Jr. in a 10-round lightweight special attraction on the undercard of the St. Patrick’s Day world title extravaganza featuring Irish sensation MICHAEL CONLAN and the World Boxing Council (WBC) Super Lightweight championship bout between JOSE RAMIREZ and AMIR ‘Young Master’ IMAM.
The undercard will include Verdejo, CHRISTOPHER ‘Pitufo’ DIAZ, and former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Junior Lightweight world champion JOSE ‘Sniper’ PEDRAZA making his debut under the Top Rank banner.
The Ramirez – Imam world championship event will be televised live and exclusively at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN and stream on the ESPN App. The night’s undercard bouts, including Verdejo, will stream live on the ESPN App at 5:30 p.m. EST. ESPN Deportes will air the bout on Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m. EST.
Verdejo, who represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Olympics, last fought on February 3, 2017, when he won a 10-round unanimous decision over Oliver Flores. He had been scheduled to fight England’s Terry Flanagan on November 5, 2016, for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Lightweight title, but was injured in a motorcycle accident in Puerto Rico three months prior.
Verdejo will be making his sixth appearance at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, last fighting there on June 11, 2016, when he knocked out Juan Jose Martinez in the fifth round. Lozada (38-2, 32 KOs) is riding a six-bout winning streak dating back to 2013.
"I'm very happy to return to New York with the task of showing the world that I'm back to retake what is mine,” Verdejo said. “I was hardened by the tough times we went through after Hurricane Maria, but like my people, I will rise again stronger than ever. March 17 will be the first step in that direction."
Diaz (22-0, 14 KOs), ranked No. 3 by the WBO at 130 pounds, will defend the NABO Junior Lightweight belt against Braulio Rodriguez (19-2, 17 KOs) in a 10-rounder as he continues his march toward a world title shot. He last fought on December 9 as one of the co-features on the Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux card, stopping Bryant ‘Pee Wee’ Cruz in the third round. Diaz knocked down Cruz four times, ending the fight with a crisp right hand. Rodriguez, who has won four of his last five, will be making his U.S. debut.
"On March 17, the fans can expect a more experienced, more explosive and more aggressive Pitufo,” Diaz said. “I'm hungry and I want to keep improving as a fighter. I'm coming to steal the show once again at The Garden. After March 17, I will be closer to a world title fight."
Pedraza (22-1, 12 KOs) will face veteran Jose Luis Rodriguez (26-11-1, 14 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight bout. He made two defenses of the IBF Junior Lightweight title before suffering a knockout defeat at the hands of Gervonta Davis on January 14, 2017.
"I feel very happy to be fighting for a promotional company like Top Rank. They want to take my career to the next level and part of that is fighting in venues like Madison Square Garden,” Pedraza said. “I'm going to give it my all so fans will enjoy my return to the ring. With Top Rank in my corner, I will become world champion once again, and I know that I have the potential to become a superstar.”
Also appearing on the undercard are a pair of exciting, undefeated prospects: 18-year-old Joseph Adorno (5-0, 5 KOs) will fight Ivan de la Madrid in a four-round super featherweight bout, while super bantamweight Jose Gonzalez (8-0-2, 2 KOs) will take on Adan Gonzales in a six-round rematch of their December 9 fight, which was ruled a majority draw.
Promoted by Top Rank and Don King Productions, in association with Madison Square Garden, tickets to the Ramirez-Imam world championship event are priced at $206, $156, $106, $81, $56 and $31, and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster charge by phone (866-858-0008), and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.MSG.com.