<
>

Top Rank signs light welterweight gold medalist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov

Top Rank's accumulation of talent continued on Thursday as it announced the signing of its seventh 2016 Olympian: light welterweight gold medalist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan.

Terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed, but Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN that Gaibnazarov will make his professional debut in an eight-round fight at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on the undercard of Top Rank's April 22 pay-per-view card headlined by Oscar Valdez's featherweight title defense against Miguel Marriaga.

Moretti said Gaibnazarov's bout won't be part of the live broadcast but that highlights of it likely will be included on the telecast.

"Top Rank is the best promotional company in the world, and I always want to be with the best," Gaibnazarov said. "Thank you, Top Rank, and especially [Top Rank chairman] Bob Arum, for giving me this opportunity and letting me show and prove in the ring my ability to fight as a professional.

"I would like to thank my country Uzbekistan, which has an excellent amateur boxing program, and my trainer Abror, who helped me to reach one of my goals -- winning Olympic gold last summer in Rio. I have many more goals as a professional and I know it will take a lot of hard work to achieve them -- to become a world champion as a professional fighter."

Moretti said he watched the 25-year-old Gaibnazarov, a southpaw, train recently and was tremendously impressed, as were others with the company.

"Based on what he was doing in training, he looked like a guy with 20 [pro] fights already," Moretti said. "Based on that he's going right to eight-round fights."

Fighters making their pro debuts typically fight in four- or six-round bouts, but Gaibnazarov is very advanced, Moretti said.

"We are in search of a solid opponent right now," Moretti said.

Gaibnazarov, who made it to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics, will debut in the junior welterweight division at about 138 pounds, but Moretti said the fighter wants to eventually drop down to the 135-pound lightweight division.

At the Rio Games in August, Gaibnazarov, shrugging off significant height and reach disadvantages, upset Lorenzo Sotomayor, of Cuba, to win a split decision in the Olympic final.

"Gaibnazarov is a blue-chip signing who will soon be a danger to everyone in the lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight divisions," Arum said. "We can't wait to introduce him properly to the world as a professional."

Gaibnazarov is managed by Egis Klimas, the 2016 Boxing Writers of Association of America manager of the year, who handles several top fighters, including junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and former unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev.

"I am very happy to bring to my team and to introduce to professional boxing another great prospect in 2016 Olympic gold medalist Fazliddin 'Fayzi' Gaibnazarov, from Uzbekistan," Klimas said. "Uzbekistan is a country where boxing is the No. 1 sport. Unfortunately, for many years it was concentrated in amateur boxing, but the times are changing and now, together with 'Fayzi' and Top Rank, we will be able to bring more professional boxing to Uzbekistan. I would like to thank Top Rank for giving an opportunity to this young, talented man and I looking forward to see him in ring making his pro debut in the near future."

Gaibnazarov joins a roster of 2016 Olympians who have signed with Top Rank that also includes lightweight gold medalist Robson Conceicao, of Brazil; American bantamweight silver medalist Shakur Stevenson; Michael Conlan, of Ireland; Teofimo Lopez Jr., who is from the United States but represented his parents' home country of Honduras; American Antonio Vargas and Puerto Rico's Jeyvier Cintron.