Lightweight Teofimo Lopez and featherweight Shakur Stevenson, 2016 Olympians and two of boxing's elite prospects, will each step up their competition level in their biggest fights to date in televised bouts on the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan undercard, Top Rank announced Tuesday.
Lopez, the 2018 ESPN prospect of the year, will take on former world title challenger and former European champion Edis Tatli in 10-round fight and Stevenson will meet former world title challenger Christopher "Pitufo" Diaz in a 10-rounder on the card headlined by the Crawford-Khan welterweight world title bout on April 20 (ESPN PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden in New York.
In the opening fight of the pay-per-view, lightweight Felix Verdejo, a one-time prospect looking to regain his stature, will face Bryan Vasquez in a 10-round fight. "Shakur Stevenson and Teofimo Lopez are two of the brightest young lights in boxing and are facing seasoned opponents in Diaz and Tatli," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. "Felix Verdejo is on the comeback trail, and Bryan Vasquez is a tough veteran who won't give in."
Lopez (12-0, 10 KOs), 21, of Las Vegas, has put on one electrifying performance after another, including in his previous two fights against opponents who were supposed to be an upgrade in competition in former world title challenger Diego Magdaleno on Feb. 2 and Mason Menard in December.
Lopez blew both away in violent knockout wins and expects to do the same when he returns to fight in New York, where he was born.
"Every time I fight in my hometown, I take over the show, and that's what I plan on doing again," Lopez said. "This is the year I become a world champion, and whoever stands in my way is going to get knocked out. If you think you've seen the best version of Teofimo Lopez, think again. 'The Takeover' is coming to Madison Square Garden and ESPN pay-per-view.
"One thing I know for sure: Tatli will be dancing with the real star of 'The Takeover' on April 20. This ain't reality TV. This is a real fight."
Tatli (31-2, 10 KOs), 31, of Finland, has never been stopped, losing only by majority decision in a lightweight world title bout to Richar Abril in 2014 and by split decision to Francesco Patera in a 2017 European lightweight title bout. Tatli, who owns wins over contender Yvan Mendy and former junior lightweight world titlist Mzonke Fana, has won two fights in a row since, including an immediate rematch with Patera to avenge the loss and regain the European title.
"This is a great matchup, and I can't wait to get the job done," Tatli said. "Lopez is a skilled fighter, and he is in for a real treat on April 20. My goal has been clear for a long time -- to win a world title -- and Lopez is not going to stop me from reaching it."
Stevenson (10-0, 6 KOs), 21, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, will be facing by far his best opponent in Diaz and hopes to put on a show for his fans from his nearby hometown.
"Newark is going to be in the building on April 20 as I show Christopher Diaz what I'm all about," Stevenson said. "After I get done with him, Diaz will wish he'd stayed at 130 pounds. Soon enough, the featherweight division is going to run through me."
Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs), 24, of Puerto Rico, suffered his only loss by decision to Masayuki Ito in July for a vacant junior lightweight world title. After the loss, Diaz dropped down in weight and has won his only fight since.
"I feel super motivated and focused as always for another big fight in another big event," Diaz said. "I like these kinds of challenges. I'm fighting against a silver medalist of the 2016 Rio Olympics, who is also a great prospect with a lot of potential. He needs to demonstrate that he has what nobody can teach him. He needs to show that he has heart and gallantry. We'll see on April 20 when he faces his first real tough test."
Verdejo (24-1, 16 KOs), 25, of Puerto Rico, was the 2014 ESPN prospect of the year but has not lived up to the considerable potential he showed coming into the pros after appearing in the 2012 Olympics.
There were injuries, questions about his commitment to training and uneven performances before he suffered a major upset loss to Antonio Lozada by 10th-round knockout last March. Verdejo returned for a second-round knockout win in November in Puerto Rico but now he is stepping back to face serious opponent in Vasquez, a former interim junior lightweight titleist.
"I'm going into this new challenge ready to demonstrate my skills against a world-class fighter," Verdejo said. "I hope that this fight will open the doors to big fights. I want to bring a world championship to Puerto Rico, and this is the year."
Vasquez (37-3, 20 KOs), 31, of Costa Rica, has won two fights in a row since a majority decision loss to former lightweight world titlist Ray Beltran in August 2017. He sounded like he was taking the fight with Verdejo very seriously.
"In order for me to lose to Verdejo, he's going to have to kill me," Vasquez said. "In order for him to kill me, he's going to have to be willing to die with me. And he's already shown that he's not willing to die in there."