Orestes Velazquez could be on the fast track to contend in a talent-rich junior welterweight division. He must get by a tough fringe contender to move on to the next level.

Velazquez will face Marcelino Lopez tonight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 10-round bout will stream live on Showtime Sports’ Youtube channel and the Showtime Boxing Facebook page (7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT).

In his last bout on December 11, Velazquez won by knockout after the first round after opponent Guillermo Crocco was not able to continue. Velazquez was the dominant fighter throughout the brief fight.

The 30-year-old Velazquez (6-0, 6 KOs) was born in Cuba, resides in Miami, Florida and now trains in Las Vegas. He is co-promoted by Warriors Boxing and BoxLab Promotions. 

Fighting on the undercard of the David Benanidez-Caleb Plant fight means a lot to Velazquez and he hopes to seize the opportunity and become well-known in the sport.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to fight on this card,” Velazquez told BoxingScene Friday morning. “I am facing a strong opponent in Lopez. I will do my best to put on a solid performance and win (tonight). My experience, I think, will be the key to victory.”

Velazquez is now trained by Ismael Salas, one of the top trainers in boxing today. He has seen noticeable differences and improvements in his skill-set since making the move to Salas.

With Las Vegas being one of the top places in the world to get sparring and under the tutelage of Salas, Velazquez believes the sky's the limit on how he can improve as a prizefighter.

“I’ve been Ismael Salas for about five months,” said Velazquez, who is managed by Shane Shapiro. “It feels great to be with someone like him. He has shown me a lot and I can see the results over this time. These new things he has showed me in the gym have made me a better overall fighter.”

Since turning pro in October 2020, Velazquez has been on the fast track. He fought four times in 2022 and his handlers hope to keep him as active this year.

Velazquez hopes to continue facing top-level opposition, including tonight’s opponent in Lopez (37-2-1, 22 KOs), who has won his last five bouts, including a knockout win over Pablo Cesar Cano in October 2017. Lopez has not fought since March 2021.

“Fighting the more-difficult opponents is a challenge and will make a better fighter,” said Velazquez. “I’ve had a lot of fights in the amateurs and I believe there is bigger and better for me later in my career, especially with the likes of my team, including Luis DeCubas, Jr., helping me out. The pro level means more to me and it’s all about being active in the ring.”

Velazquez can draw on the experience and success of Cuba-born fighters who have made their mark on boxing, including Guillermo Rigondeaux, Luis Ortiz and Yordenis Ugas. He hopes to create his own path in the sport and live up to his dreams and expectations of being the best in the division.

“The Cubans before me did their work and came out successful. Now it’s my turn to come in and win. I’m motivated and I think people think that my physical attributes remind them of Yuriorkis Gamboa. I do look up to him, but my motivation in boxing is my family, which includes my wife, mother, and brother. That’s my motivation and it will help me go far in the sport.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing