Verdejo was a late addition to this bill, which also features heavyweight Andy Ruiz and the rematch between IBF featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich and Billy Dib.
“I was very excited. I couldn’t believe it,” he said last week to Maxboxing through Top Rank publicist Ricardo Jimenez last week while in Puerto Rico. “It’s a pay-per-view show; that’s where I’m going to be on. I just thank God for the opportunity.”
The 8-0 (6) Verdejo has been on undercards of big fight cards featuring the likes of Gennady Golovkin, Mikey Garcia and most recently, Miguel Cotto back on October 5th in Orlando. But he says this particular event featuring Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios is the largest stage he will have been on. “This is an opportunity for the whole world to see me. People have seen me fight but not the whole world and I know everyone will be watching this show. So yes, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to see me,” said Verdejo, who many believe is the heir apparent to Cotto on the island.
Verdejo seems to have star quality, not just physical talent but that intangible marquee attractions have. He is already drawing sizable crowds in Puerto Rico (which, quite frankly, is going through a bit of a drought) and is developing well as a pro. He is moving up the ladder quickly at age 20.
Top Rank Promotions President Todd duBoef, who was instrumental in signing Verdejo to a promotional pact coming out of the 2012 Olympics, stated, “The thought process was that he’s probably one of the marquee - if not the marquee - prospects in the sport right now. He comes from a country with a big pay-per-view audience and does very well. He is followed by a lot of the Puerto Ricans all over the country and the world and we felt that it would be a great platform, not only for him to add something to the show but for the rest of the world to see his skill and abilities.”
And the presence of Verdejo will add more pay-per-view buys in Puerto Rico. It’s a role once played by the likes of Cotto, Juan Manuel Lopez and Ivan Calderon during their careers. To duBoef, being part of undercards is a rite of passage for all boxers. “I mean, we did it with Floyd [Mayweather]. He fought on undercards too,” he pointed out. “Oscar [De la Hoya] fought on undercards. They all find their way when they’re building up, transitioning from the Olympics and obviously, you want to give them a big audience to get exposed on and obviously, you want them to develop correctly in the ring and it just happened to be that the scheduling worked very good for him and for us and it’s something that we felt we’d give him, that experience.”
For Verdejo, this trip is the farthest he’s taken since the 2012 Summer Games in London.
“I love to go and travel because there’s always something to see, to entertain yourself with,” said Verdejo, who could be coming right back to fight on December 14 back home in Puerto Rico.
“First we have to get over the fight in Macao. Once that’s done and we come out fine, if everything goes well as we want to, then maybe there’s a possibility to fight on the 14th,” he says. “I’d love to fight but we have to wait and see what develops next.”
If that comes to fruition, it would mean that in his first full year in the paid ranks, Verdejo will have performed nine times. He’s everything duBoef had hoped he’d be early on.
“I actually think he’s a little more. To see his charisma and the ‘attractability’ to the fans and the people of the island is pretty remarkable. He definitely has a sparkle that comes across that endearing to everybody. So on ability, we can all go with X’s and O’s and ‘This guy’s the greatest of all-time,’ but like we talk about, marketability is the ‘It Factor’ and he has a special marketability that is really something endearing to everybody.”
There’s always been a belief that undercards don’t have a discernible effect on pay-per-view numbers and only the hardcore fans really care about them. I don’t disagree with these notions but the more you canvass the opinions of those on Twitter (which admittedly isn’t exactly a Gallup Poll) as pay-per-view prices go north of $70, I get the sense that more and more fans who routinely purchase these fights now absolutely care about what’s attached to the main event when making their decisions on whether to purchase pay-per-view events. And if they don’t like the entire card, they have no qualms about going with a stream (and I don’t mean the one that leads to a lake).
It doesn’t seem all that unreasonable. If you’re going to continue to charge more and more for these events, why shouldn’t the paying public expect at least one solid undercard bout (and by “solid,” I mean a bout good enough to be featured on HBO or Showtime on its own)?
Right now, for whatever reason, Golden Boy Promotions puts on better cards from top-to-bottom than Top Rank.
Going back in history, if you look at some of the highest grossing pay-per-view cards, they featured some awful supporting bouts. But going off that precedent shouldn’t be a reason to stick to the status quo. Perhaps a change in the pay-per-view paradigm is in order.