Felix Verdejo flashes his potential in dominating fifth-round stoppage
Felix Verdejo had a problem.
One of the most hyped fighters in recent years, Verdejo acknowledged his last two performances weren’t reflective of his potential. He won a pair of decisions, but they were dull and uninspiring outings, prompting the brass at promoter Top Rank to sit him down and talk about what he had to do differently to start living up to his promise. Verdejo blamed a lack of focus on those performances.
Puerto Rico’s Verdejo certainly looked dedicated on Saturday, stopping the rugged Juan Jose Martinez at 2:40 of the fifth round in a lightweight bout at Madison Square Garden’s Theater before an announced crowd of 4,545 on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Verdejo was crisp and aggressive throughout, showing the explosiveness that has made his handlers believe he can one day succeed Miguel Cotto as the next Puerto Rican star.
“My career depended on this fight and I knew that,” Verdejo said in the ring afterward. “And it showed. I had the distractions like a young guy but it won’t happen again.”
Verdejo (22-0, 15 knockouts) stunned Jose Martinez (25-3, 17 KOs) with a hard right hand in the fifth and jumped on him, trapping him along the ropes and raining down punches, causing referee Mike Ortega to intervene and wave the fight off. Verdejo led by scores of 40-36, 40-36 and 40-36 at the time of the stoppage, winning each round.
“I had trained a lot harder and I have adjusted to the pressure I had in my previous fights,” the 23-year-old Verdejo said. “I lost focus in those fights and I had to work much harder to regain it. He stood right in front of me and was tailor-made for me. He came to fight. It was my kind of fight. I just want to fight the best that’s out there.”
Verdejo appeared sharper and more focused than he had recently, controlling the fight and never appearing in danger. A cut appeared over the right eye of Jose Martinez in the third round, the result of a slicing left. Verdejo connected with another counter-left later in the round causing the cut to widen.
Verdejo”s commitment to his jab in the fourth round re-opened the cut after his corner had worked to close it. Verdejo assaulted Jose Martinez’s body in the second half of the round, causing the 30-year-old to briefly back off. It was an impressive performance that will do wonders for a young fighter whose confidence seemed to be waning of late.
In his first fight outside of China and Macau, the two-time Chinese gold medalist and Freddie Roach-trained Zou Shiming (8-1, 2 knockouts) won a unanimous decision against 19-year-old Jozsef Ajtai by scores of 100-89, 100-89, 100-89 in a flyweight bout.
Shiming’s handlers would like to showcase him in Las Vegas next as part of his stateside tour. While it was a successful New York debut for Shiming, it wasn’t an overly exciting one. Fans booed the lack of action after the fourth round. Ajtai (15-3, 10 KOs) had a point deducted in the sixth round for holding. When the final round ended, Shiming held his fist up and was met by a smattering of boos with some cheers.
Sean Acosta (0-2-1, 0 KOs) and Jose Gonzalez (3-0-1, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw by scores of 39-37 for Gonzalez and 38-38, 38-38 in a featherweight bout.
Christopher Diaz busted up tough Neftali Campos, causing the bout to be stopped at 2:33 of the eighth and final round of a featherweight bout. The explosive Diaz ran his record to 17-0, 11 knockouts while Campos is now 11-2, 9 KOs.
Julian Rodriguez knocked down Adam Mate four times in the first round, the last one causing referee Ron Lipton to wave the welterweight fight off at 2:27 of the opening frame. Rodriguez upped his record to 13-0 with 10 knockouts while Mate dropped to 18-10 with 11 KOs.
Michael Reed stopped Abraham Cordero at 2:29 of the sixth round of a junior welterweight bout on the advice of the doctor to remain undefeated at 19-0 with 11 knockouts. Cordero dropped to 13-3-1 (7 KOs).
Jean Carlos Rivera opened the show with a sixth-round TKO against Heriberto Delgado to remain undefeated at 7-0, 4 knockouts in featherweight action. Delgado stands at 11-5-1, 6 KOs.