Verdejo to face Flanagan for lightweight title

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Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo, a heralded prospect, will challenge lightweight world titleholder Terry Flanagan on Sept. 16, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN on Thursday night, shortly after Verdejo manager/trainer Ricky Marquez came to terms with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum on their end of the deal.

The fight will take place at Manchester Arena in Flanagan’s hometown of Manchester, England.

Top Rank and Flanagan promoter Frank Warren had earlier made their deal, but Top Rank and Verdejo were at odds on how to divvy up the money Warren was putting up for the mandatory bout. Finally, after it looked as though it might fall through, they made a deal, Moretti said.

“It’s agreed to,” Moretti said. “Everything with Verdejo was completed [Thursday night]. I’m told Flanagan and Frank have their deal and now we have a fight.”

Flanagan, a 28-year-old southpaw, will be making his sixth title defense. He is coming off a one-sided unanimous decision against rugged Petr Petrov on April 8, also at the Manchester Arena.

In February, Verdejo, a 24-year-old who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics, ended an eight-month layoff by winning a 10-round unanimous decision against Oliver Flores in San Juan.

Last summer, Verdejo (23-0, 15 KOs) crashed his dirt bike and spent five days in the hospital with an assortment of cuts, bruises and scrapes — injuries that sidelined him for the remainder of 2016 and cost him a fall shot at Flanagan. At that point, Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) was allowed to put off the mandatory defense to face Petrov and Verdejo was able to return from the injury against Flores.

Now the mandatory fight is finally set and Verdejo could not be happier.

“I’m very happy with the agreement for my world title fight,” said Verdejo, the 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year. “Now it’s only a matter of getting ready and going back to England [for the first time since the Olympics], where it all started, and making my dreams of becoming a world champion come true.”

Moretti said Top Rank has confidence in Verdejo’s chances to win, one of the reasons it made the decision to allow him to go to Flanagan’s hometown for the fight.

“If we didn’t believe he could win the fight, we never would have proposed it,” Moretti said. “Felix wants to step up and challenge a true world champion and not fight for a vacant title. He wants to fight against a solid champion. Terry Flanagan is a very solid champion and on Sept. 16 Puerto Rico will have another world champion.”

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