Miguel Marriaga was ready to fight.
Mark John Yap, to put it mildly, was not.
For the second time in as many shows this week, there comes a shakeup at the top level of a Top Rank on ESPN telecast live from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Thursday’s originally scheduled main event between Marriaga and Yap was cancelled by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), due to Yap weighing 136.7 pounds—nearly nine pounds above the contracted 128-pound limit for the contest.
Marriaga checked in at a fighting fit 127.3 pounds, though ultimately with nothing to show for it.
The show will go on, which is now down to four fights from an originally scheduled seven-bout slate. The new main event pits Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo (26-1, 16KOs) in a scheduled 10-round lightweight contest as he faces Albany’s Will Madera (15-0-3, 8KOs).
Their bout survived a minor scare when Madera came in just under the 136-pound contract limit after initially coming in slightly heavy. His second attempt registered at 135.8 pounds, slightly lighter than Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rico Olympian and 2013 BoxingScene.com Prospect of the Year who weighed 135.9 pounds.
As for Marriaga (29-3, 25KOs), it marks his second straight full training camp and stamped passport from his native Colombia to a fight destination only to never make his way to the ring. The 33-year old veteran contender—whose lone three defeats have all come in title fights—was hoping for the fourth time to be a charm as he was due to face then-reigning WBO featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson.
The bout was cancelled two days prior to their March 14 ESPN date at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City due to the initial outbreak of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Marriaga’s handlers, All-Star Boxing Inc. had to get permission to fly in the featherweight for the fight. Marriaga was brought in on a humanitarian flight from Colombia just to arrive in Vegas well in advance to finish his second training camp for what was to be his first fight since last December.
Instead, it’s just the latest entry in a frustrating year.
“I just can’t catch a break,” Marriaga told BoxingScene.com in passing. “It’s a shame, I was ready to fight.”
Unfortunately, the boxer was bound by the rules of the NSAC, who rarely if ever allow a fight to proceed when one participant misses weight by more than a full weight division.
Yap (30-15, 15KOs) was too far above the limit to even attempt to shed weight, with the nine-pound disparity ultimately killing the contest. The Filipino journeyman will likely face a suspension and hefty fine for his lack of professionalism.
For the team at Top Rank, it’s a second straight juggling act.
Tuesday’s card from this very location saw unbeaten junior lightweight Mikaela Mayer (13-0, 5KOs) command the spotlight in a 10-round shutout of Helen Joseph. The first-ever female bout to headline on ESPN’s flagship station came about due to the 130-pound title fight between defending champ Jamel Herring (21-1, 10KOs) and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19KOs) being canceled just prior to the weigh-in.
Herring was told to have once again tested positive for COVID-19 which delayed their previously scheduled July 2 clash. The 34-year old southpaw ultimately learned of it being a false positive, but too far after the fact as the commission’s zero-tolerance COVID protocol forced the bout’s cancellation.
Thursday’s makeshift main event between Verdejo and Madera tops a four-fight telecast.
Also on the show, heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson (4-0, 4KOs) faces Hector Perez (7-2, 5KOs) in a four-round battle of returning Bubble participants. Both scored separate wins in June and were due to collide one week ago, only for Perez—a 29-year old DominiRican from Tamarac, Florida—to be pulled after showing abnormal testosterone levels from a June 16 win in this very venue.
Anderson—an unbeaten prospect from Toledo, Ohio—appeared on the series’ inaugural installment on June 9, stopping Johnnie Langston in three rounds for his longest pro bout to date after scoring three straight 1st round knockouts to start his promising career.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox