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Felix Verdejo returns for hometown bout on April 25

24
Apr
Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

 

When you watch Felix Verdejo in a boxing ring, it is hard to believe he is just 21 years of age.

He can box, punch and impose his will when necessary, something many fighters much older than him have not been able to grasp.

While the results have been impressive thus far, the popular fighter from Puerto Rico still has a way to go before he can challenge for a world title, much less be considered an elite fighter.



Tougher opposition will await Verdejo, especially this year but the young fighter seems eager to test himself now and demonstrate why he is no flash in the pan.

Verdejo will fight Marco Antonio Lopez in a 10-round bout om Saturday night at the Coliseo Mario “Quijote” Morales in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. The bout will headline a Top Rank Promotions card and be televised on UniMas, beginning at 11 p.m. ET/ PT.

Verdejo (16-0, 12 knockouts) was originally scheduled to fight Lopez on Feb. 28 in Tampa, Florida. The bout was postponed when Verdejo suffered an injury to his left hand during training camp in earlier that month.

He has not fought since Dec. 13, when he stopped Karim El Ouazghari in the fourth round in Philadelphia. While he has been itching to return to the ring, Verdejo understands the importance of recuperation and recovery.

“[Injuries] can happen at any time,” Verdejo told RingTV in a recent phone interview. “I had to be careful for my future. I had to work through it and move forward.”

He faces a tough brawler in Lopez on Saturday night. Verdejo will fight in his first 10-round bout as a pro and will also fight for his first regional belt, the WBO Latino lightweight title.

It could be easy for Verdejo to overlook someone like Lopez, especially if he will be fighting in front of a boisterous and partisan crowd. But Verdejo is not taking Lopez (24-5, 15 KOs) lightly.

“I have not seen him fight but I know he has power,” said Verdejo, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. “I cannot underestimate him. Like other fighters, he is coming to win. I have to be at my best.”

Verdejo is not taking Lopez lightly although he has another fight penciled in seven weeks. Should he beat Lopez, Verdejo is scheduled to fight unbeaten Ivan Najera on June 13 inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The fight card will take place the day before the annual Puerto Rican Day parade, which draws tens of thousands of people to the city.

Top Rank understands the potential and star appeal of Verdejo, which explains why he has fought on major fight cards since making his pro debut, whether in New York City, Orlando, or Macau, China.

Verdejo sees a June fight as an opportunity to demonstrate that he has the potential to fight regularly on an enormous stage and on a premium network like HBO, which will broadcast the fight.

“I’m lined up to fight in June. I take one fight at a time but I want to show what I can do. I expect the tougher fights and I know my future could be brighter if I keep winning. By the end of the year, maybe I can fight for a world title. Realistically, it will probably be next year.”

That may come across as bold or even overconfident but Verdejo may have reason to have that chip on his shoulder, knowing full well what many in boxing believe: He a special fighter with a tremendous upside. Should he get by Lopez on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how he handles the psychological aspect of boxing, fighting under brighter lights and a larger crowd.

For now, Verdejo is taking it all in. He is still growing and maturing but some believe he could be the next Puerto Rican boxing star, joining the likes of Wilferdo Benitez, Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.

The comparison is flattering to Verdejo but one that is not unbelievable.

“When people, and even young kids, come meet me, it makes me feel happy. I was like that when Trinidad was at his peak. I would look up to him the same way kids look up to me. I’m always happy with the support people have for me, whether it’s in Puerto Rico or in the United States.”

“I feel very motivated and I will continue to train hard. As the [great fighters from Puerto Rico] before me had their time, now it’s my turn.”

 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.

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