Top prospect Verdejo to return

One of boxing’s most charismatic prospects, Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo, returns to action on March 22 (UniMas, 11 p.m. ET/PT) at Roger Mendoza Coliseum in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

The 20-year-old 2012 Olympian, already one of Puerto Rico’s most popular boxers, takes on Denver’s Juan Santiago (14-11-1, 8 KOs), who, despite his mediocre record, represents a small step up in competition for Verdejo (10-0, 7 KOs).

Although Santiago has lost seven of his last eight bouts, he went the 10-round distance with former lightweight titleholder Juan Diaz in October. It will be interesting to see if Verdejo can get the stoppage in their six-rounder.

“I never look for the knockout,” Verdejo said. “If it comes, it’s OK. The only thing I know about my opponent is that he is an experienced fighter that has fought against world champions. Like always, I will prepare myself to the maximum.”

Puerto Rican junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (27-3-1, 26 KOs) headlines the show against Colombia’s Richard Gutierrez (27-12-1, 17 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round fight.

Verdejo made his pro debut in December 2012 and Top Rank kept him very busy in 2013 with eight fights. He’s already had one victory so far this year and if Verdejo wins his fight next week, he is due back in action on April 19 in Orlando, Fla., where he drew big cheers from the largely Puerto Rican crowd when he fought on Miguel Cotto’s undercard there in October. Verdejo is scheduled to face Jeremy McLaurin (10-7-1, 5 KOs) on that card, which will also air on UniMas.