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Verdejo And Berlanga Close Top Rank Bubble

Credit: Mickey Williams/Top Rank

New York: In June, as the global pandemic of COVID-19 shut down sports, boxing resumed when Las Vegas based Top Rank became the first of the boxing promotions to begin a series of televised cards on the ESPN televised and streaming platforms.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum was intent on giving boxing fans their fix of championship fights in a bubble setup located at the MGM Grand Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Strict medical protocols and COVID testing were the procedures.

With the exception of a few fighters and personnel that tested positive for COVID, Top Rank pulled off a series of successful shows that included Terence Crawford with a successful defense of his welterweight title.

And Teofimo Lopez became the franchise or unified WBC lightweight champion with a dominant win over Vasiliy Lomachenko. That win propelled Lopez as a top pound-for-pound fighter in the rankings.

But all good things must come to an end. Saturday Top Rank concludes the year and their run at the MGM bubble as Shakur Stevenson, former featherweight world champion, is ready to add a second world title to his trophy case.

In mid June, Stevenson was the first champion to main event the Top Rank-MGM resumption of boxing on ESPN. Saturday,he must get past Toka Kahn Clary in a 10-round junior lightweight main event from the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble. Stevenson-Clary headlines an ESPN-televised tripleheader
beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

Two other fights will also close out the show and with good representation of Puerto Rico.

Felix Verdejo is continuing his quest to climb the ladder after a series of setbacks. He realizes the importance of closing out the year with a win. The 10-round lightweight co-feature will see Verdejo taking on Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani.

“Everything has gone very well since I have been training with {Ismael} Salas in Las Vegas,” he said. “The change has been from heaven to earth. I’ve seen the changes in me. I am in excellent condition. I have confidence in my skills and on the work I have done, but I don’t overlook any opponent.”

And the suspense of the knockout streak will also highlight this last show of the year with super middleweight sensation Edgar Berlanga,15-0 with 15 first-round knockout. He will seek to extend his streak against veteran Ulises Sierra in an eight-rounder. Sierra, from San Diego, has never been stopped as a pro.

Berlanga, quickly moving up the ranks, and the sensation of 2020, will face his toughest test. He said, despite the early knockouts, that preparation is always for 12-round fights.

“I don’t dwell on the first-round stuff. If it happens, it happens,” Berlanga said. “I’m ready to go 12 rounds. It doesn’t matter how many rounds we are fighting. Every camp, I prepare to go 12 full rounds”.

After his last knockout he took the time and visited Puerto Rico. Berlanga met with Hall of Famer and champion Felix Trinidad. He said that Trinidad gave him the inspiration to fight and continue that tradition of following in his footsteps of representing champions from Puerto Rico.

“I got to see my idol in action as I was growing up,” Berlanga said Thursday. “When I met him last month in Puerto Rico, we both got very emotional as he was giving me great advice.”

The watch is on. Will Berlanga continue his streak and how does Verdejo close out the year? Of course the emphasis will be on Stevenson and his dominance.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso Watch “Sports With Rich” YouTube ike, Comment, Subscribe.

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