Egor Mekhontsev turns professional

Egor Mekhontsev, the 2012 Russian Olympic gold medalist, signed a professional contract with promoter Top Rank on Friday and will make his professional debut on Dec. 7.

The 6-foot-1 southpaw, who turns 29 on Nov. 14, will turn pro against an opponent to be determined on the undercard of unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux's title defense against former bantamweight titlist Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko in Atlantic City, N.J.

As a heavyweight, Mekhontsev won gold at the 2009 world amateur championships and at the 2008 and 2010 European amateur championships before dropping down in weight.

He was the light heavyweight bronze medalist at the 2011 world amateur championships. He'll campaign professionally in the 175-pound light heavyweight division and train in Los Angeles.

"We saw a DVD of [some of his amateur fights] and I loved him," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "I used to do so many of the great light heavyweight fights [in the late 1970s and 80s] with guys like Matthew Saad Muhammad, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Victor Galindez, Yaqui Lopez, Mike Rossman, so I am schooled in light heavyweights and this guy is the kind of fighter who could hold his own with any of those guys. He really reminds me of a guy who could hold his own with them."

Arum and Vadim Kornilov, Mekhontsev's manager, have been negotiating the deal for the past few weeks and on Friday, with the deal done, they visited Arum's office in Las Vegas to sign the contract.

"It is very interesting for me to begin boxing professionally after accomplishing all I did as an amateur. I am very excited," Mekhontsev said through Kornilov, who also manages newly crowned junior welterweight titleholder Ruslan Provodnikov.

"I am excited as well to begin working with such an amateur standout," Kornilov said. "I am very confident in Egor's future as a pro boxer."

The signing is just the latest in a tremendous haul of amateur talent for Top Rank, which has been on a 2012 Olympic signing binge. Mekhontsev is the fourth of the 10 Olympic gold medalists from London to sign with Top Rank. He joins Japanese middleweight Ryota Murata; Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko, the 2012 featherweight Olympic champion and 2008 lightweight gold medalist; and Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming, who owns three Olympic medals, gold in 2012 and 2008 and a bronze from 2004.

Arum said that Mekhontsev's second pro fight would come on Feb. 22 in Macau, China, where he plans to put on a card called "Ring of Gold," an HBO2-televised show that will feature Zou, Murata and Mekhontsev along with two world title bouts to be determined.

"These [gold medalists] essentially recruited us," Arum said. "Usually, you run after these guys and wave money at them to get them to sign. We didn't give one bonus to these guys. They felt we were the best promotions company for them, that we would develop them and put them in the right position and we made deals with them."

Besides the gold medal winners Top Rank did pay out substantial bonuses to sign other top amateur standouts who participated in the London Games, including Mexican featherweight Oscar Valdez, junior welterweight Jose Ramirez of the United States and Puerto Rican junior lightweight Felix Verdejo.

"We stocked up," said Arum, who turns 82 on Dec. 8. "Besides Mekhontsev, I got more Russians coming. Pretty soon, I can put my own army together. We signed all of these Olympians because we believe they will be top professionals and we believe that this is the future of boxing. It's a worldwide sport. We didn't make any differentiation in signing guys because of where they were from.

"We wanted the best fighters and we also know that there are markets all over the world, whether it's the Russian market, Ukrainian, Chinese, Japanese. We're now in position to bring the product to these markets because now we have the horses to do it. Whatever more years I have left, it will be on a high note with all of those talented kids."