Felix Verdejo stunned by Antonio Lozada Jr., suffers first pro loss
NEW YORK — Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for Felix Verdejo, they did.
The Puerto Rican star suffered the first loss of his professional career, losing by technical knockout in the tenth and final round against unheralded Mexican Antonio Lozada Jr. on St. Patrick’s Day at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Two scorecards had Verdejo ahead, 87-84 and 86-85, when the bout was halted by the ringside doctor at the 2:37 mark, while a third had Lozada (39-2, 33 KOs) ahead 86-85.
It was Verdejo’s first fight in over a year, and the 24-year-old from San Juan, Puerto Rico, had hoped he could recapture the momentum he lost following a motorcycle accident in 2016. That wasn’t in Lozada’s plans, though.
After a strong start from Verdejo (23-1, 15 KOs), Lozada’s steady pressure began to tell on Verdejo’s face, with swelling from right-hand leads on the left side of his face and blood pouring from his mouth.
If that wasn’t enough indication of Verdejo’s distress, his legs gave way briefly in the fifth from a right hand high on his head, causing him to grab on. The action began to take on characteristics similar to Margarito-Cotto I, with Lozada pressing through the flashier shots from Verdejo and staying in front of him with short, accurate punches.
Verdejo’s trainer/manager, Ricky Marquez, realizing how dire the situation was, slapped Verdejo in the corner after he walked back from the seventh out on his feet. It wasn’t the wake-up call they would have hoped for.
Realizing he needed something big to turn the fight in his favor, Verdejo came out swinging in the 10th, leaving himself open for Lozada’s counters. A left hook to the jaw caught Verdejo unguarded, and a right hand sent him down midway through the round. The fight was stopped after another shot had him defenseless in the corner.
“Ten fucking seconds he had. The doctor couldn’t wait?” said Tommy Gallagher, one of Verdejo’s cornermen. “This is all he has. He doesn’t have a job.”
Lozada, 27, had never previously fought outside his native Mexico, but has now won seven straight. Among those at ringside were Verdejo’s amateur rival and potential future opponent, Vasyl Lomachenko, who had a bemused smirk on his face. Promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, seated a row in front of him, looked on expressionless.
Verdejo’s Puerto Rican compatriots Christopher Diaz and Jose Pedraza had significantly easier nights.
Diaz (23-0, 15 KOs) had a tough puzzle in front of him in the form of the Dominican Republic’s Braulio Rodriguez (19-3, 17 KOs), a slick boxer who made the hard-throwing Diaz miss more than usual. The 10-round scheduled junior lightweight fight ended abruptly when Rodriguez turned around in pain, clutching his right arm, forcing the referee to call a halt to the bout 28 seconds into the fourth round.
Pedraza, a former IBF junior lightweight titleholder, opened the card with a sparring session-type outing against durable Mexican fighter Jose Luis Rodriguez (23-12, 13 KOs). Pedraza (23-1, 12 KOs) swept all three scorecards, 80-72, in his first fight since losing by seventh-round technical knockout to Gervonta Davis in January of 2017.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].