Felix Verdejo decisions Oliver Flores in mundane effort
It is clear by those who showed up to watch Felix Verdejo fight last Friday night that he still has a significant following. What is unsure is his immediate future as a lightweight contender.
Verdejo won a hard-fought, 10-round unanimous decision over Oliver Flores before a crowd of 7,143 at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Verdejo improves to 23-0 (with 15 knockouts) but many have critiqued his performance, especially during the last several rounds.
Flores, who hails from Leon, Nicaragua, drops to 27-3-2 (17 KOs).
The 23-year-old Verdejo was fighting for the first time since June 11, when he stopped Juan Jose Martinez in round five in New York City. Verdejo was scheduled to fight on the undercard of the Nov. 5 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Jessie Vargas but was injured in a motorcycle accident on Aug. 7 in Puerto Rico.
Verdejo spent weeks healing from lacerations to his face and left arm, along with head trauma suffered in the accident.
Flores challenged Takashi Uchiyama for the WBA junior lightweight title in his previous bout on Dec. 31, 2015, losing by third round stoppage.
Verdejo, who resides in San Juan, was the more effective fighter during the first half of the fight, outboxing the southpaw Flores from the outside and landing with right hands to the head.
The crowd would rain down a cascade of boos during the midway point of the fight, mostly for the lack of action between the two fighters, as Verdejo seemed content to just box and not push for a knockout.
Sensing he was down on the scorecards, Flores began letting his hands go more consistently. The adjustment worked as he landed repeatedly with left hands to the head, drawing blood from Verdejo’s nose. A few of those Flores’ straight left hands seemed to stun Verdejo, drawing gasps from the partisan crowd.
Flores continued to press the action in the final round but Verdejo stood his ground, producing solid exchanges until the final bell.
Scores were 99-91, 98-92, and 96-94 in favor of Verdejo.
“We knew we had to rise above the adversity of my opponent,” said Verdejo immediately after the fight. “The inactivity may have played a part (in performance tonight) but I still had a job to do in the ring.
“I was confident that I was going to knock (Flores) out but he’s a good fighter. It was not an easy fight.”
Top Rank Promotions has penciled Verdejo’s return to the ring for June 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Verdejo is the mandatory challenger to face WBO lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan but it will be interesting to see if Top Rank will follow through with that fight, given Verdejo’s performance.
In the co-feature bout, featherweight Christopher Diaz (20-0, 12 KOs) dropped former junior featherweight contender Efrain Esquivias twice en route to a seventh round stoppage.
Despite Esquivias (17-6-1, 10 KOs) showing heart and grit, Diaz was too strong for the Southern California resident. The end came at 2:18 of round seven, as Diaz pummeled Esquivias in a corner.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) 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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