Miguel “Escorpion” Marriaga’s quest for a fourth world title shot continues inside the MGM Grand “Bubble” Thursday, July 16, in a scheduled 10-round featherweight main event against Filipino veteran Mark John Yap.
In the 10-round lightweight co-feature, Puerto Rican sensation Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo, closing in on a world title shot of his own, will fight the unbeaten Will Madera.
“Miguel stayed in shape throughout the pandemic and was willing to fight anyone we put in front of him,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Felix is so close to realizing his potential, and with a great trainer like Ismael Salas in his corner, anything is possible. This is going to be an action-packed card, and both Miguel and Felix will be tested.”
Marriaga said, “I stayed in shape during the pandemic, and I am thankful to my team for this wonderful opportunity. I want to be a world champion, and a win over Yap will move me one step closer to my ultimate goal. Yap is much better than his record indicates. Neither of us will take a backward step.”
Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs) fell short in world title fights against Nicholas Walters, Oscar Valdez and Vasiliy Lomachenko, but he has knocked out four straight foes since the Lomachenko defeat in August 2017. He last saw action Dec. 7 in Pueblo, Mexico, and knocked out Alfredo Mejia Vargas with a body shot. Marriaga was scheduled to challenge Shakur Stevenson for the WBO featherweight world title March 14, but the bout was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yap (30-15, 15 KOs) is a 13-year pro and a former OPBF bantamweight champion who has not been knocked out since 2014.
Verdejo (26-1, 16 KOs) is seeking his fourth consecutive win since a shocking 2018 TKO loss at the hands of Antonio Lozada Jr. Now based in Las Vegas under the tutelage of Salas, the 2012 Olympian is coming off an ESPN-televised decision win Jan. 18 over Manuel Rey Rojas. Madera (15-0-3, 8 KOs), from Albany, New York, impressed American fight fans with his nationally televised decision win over the previously undefeated Thomas Mattice in February 2019. He is 2-0-1 since the Mattice victory, including a second-round stoppage over Edgar Ramirez on Jan. 28.
“July 16 marks my return to the ring against Will Madera in what will be my second fight with my new team,” Verdejo said. “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the progress resulting from my work. I have renewed motivation to realize my dream of becoming a world champion. That is the goal.”
In undercard action:
Alexis “Perro” del Bosque (17-5, 9 KOs), from Dallas, Texas, will take on an opponent to be named in an eight-rounder at lightweight. del Bosque, who has won four in a row, was scheduled to fight Joseph Adorno in the MGM Grand “Bubble” last month, but the fight was canceled after Adorno failed to make weight.
Featherweight prospect Martino Jules (9-0, 2 KOs), a former amateur standout from Allentown, Pennsylvania, will face the upset-minded Aleem Jumakhonov (8-2-2, 4 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Jumakhonov, who was born Tajikistan and now resides in Southern California, is coming off a unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Anthony Chavez.
Raphael “Trouble” Igbokwe (14-2, 6 KOs), winner of two straight bouts, will fight Genc Pllana (8-1-1, 4 KOs) in an eight-rounder at super middleweight. Pllana is coming off a nationally televised decision victory over Kevin Newman II (11-1-1 at the time) and a draw against Kalvin Henderson (12-0).
In a six-round welterweight tussle, Hector Madera (6-0, 3 KOs) will fight fellow unbeaten Adrian Valdovinos (5-0-1, 4 KOs).