Junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev, who has signed with Top Rank, will make his first defense in his first fight with the company against Breidis Prescott on March 30, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday.
The fight will take place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and serve as the HBO co-feature to the much-anticipated rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, who will meet for a vacant version of the junior welterweight title five months after Rios (31-0-1, 23 KOs) stopped Alvarado (33-1, 23 KOs) in the seventh round of a slugfest.
Allakhverdiev-Prescott was agreed to between the fighter camps several days ago, but HBO did not approve Prescott as the opponent until Thursday, Arum said.
Allakhverdiev (18-0, 8 KOs), 30, of Russia, won a vacant title on Nov. 30 in Sunrise, Fla., in a strong performance against then-undefeated Joan Guzman, a former two-division titleholder. Allakhverdiev scored one official knockdown -- although there were multiple others that were ruled slips -- before the fight ended in the eighth round after Guzman injured his left knee on what was ruled an accidental foul, sending the fight to the scorecards for a technical decision.
"He beat Guzman, who's a very good fighter and (matchmakers) Bruce (Trampler) and Brad (Goodman) think he's a very good fighter, so we signed him," Arum said. "We want to make him a big name and then we have fights we can try to make. Maybe he could fight (welterweight titlist) Tim Bradley, or the Rios-Alvarado winner. We can mix and match these guys."
Allakhverdiev, a southpaw, previously had scored a fourth-round knockout victory against former title challenger Kaizer Mabuza in June and also owns a win against former lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell.
"It's a title fight in the 140-pound division on the same card with Rios and Alvarado on top, so the winners and losers from that night, I can see them fighting each other somewhere," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "It's just a natural mix no matter who wins and loses that night."
Top Rank signed Allakhverdiev a couple of weeks ago and was going to match him with San Francisco's Karim Mayfield (17-0-1, 10 KOs) -- HBO's preferred opponent -- on the March 30 card. However, Mayfield's co-promoters, Prize Fight and Gary Shaw, could not agree with each other on the money. Prize Fight wanted to make the fight, but Shaw was not happy with the deal, according to HBO and Top Rank.
Prescott (26-4, 20 KOs), 29, who is from Colombia and lives in Miami, has made several appearances on American television and is best known for his shocking first-round knockout -- in 54 seconds -- of Amir Khan in England in a 2008 lightweight fight.
In the fight before beating Khan, Prescott won a split decision against Richard Abril, who eventually won an interim lightweight title and also lost a controversial split decision loss to Rios last April.
Prescott has won two fights in a row after back-to-back defeats in 2011, a controversial decision against Paul McCloskey in McCloskey's hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland and a 10th-round knockout loss to Alvarado on the undercard of the third Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight in November 2011. Prescott was easily outpointing Alvarado before a badly cut Alvarado rallied for the stoppage win in the final round.
"Prescott was the first man to knock out Amir Khan, he had the war with Mike Alvarado and the disputed loss to McCloskey, who's a southpaw, which shows he can handle that style," Moretti said. "And Khabib just keeps coming and throwing punches. He doesn't know any better. Let's give him some credit. Khabib said to get him a tough guy. He had no problem taking this fight. Some people create their own storms and then complain when it rains, so let's see what happens with Khabib and Prescott."