As expected this past Saturday night from the smaller Theatre at the legendary Madison Square Garden on the island of New York, Puerto Rico crowned a new king in Felix Verdejo as the twenty-two year old put together an impressive performance against the tough as leather Ivan “Bam Bam” Najera over ten rounds. With the win Verdejo retained the the insignificant WBO Latino lightweight title. Verdejo dropped Najera twice, once in the fifth and again in the seventh, en route to a lopsided unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Najera who hails from Houston, Texas.
Granted that other Puerto Rican, Miguel Cotto, is still fighting as a professional but for all intent and purposes, he has left the consciousness of the island. First of all Cotto has never been as presentable to the Boricua boxing fans as he is considered an introvert who doesn’t go out of his way to make nice with his fans. Despite of that, Puerto Ricans, both on the island and in New York City, have followed him and made him into a huge ticket seller at the Garden as well as supporting him at his many appearances at the Puerto Rican parade held in June.
Recently though Cotto has taken a left turn. Puerto Rican boxing fans are a proud and knowledgeable bunch. Cotto has not really kept it a secret that in the twilight of his career he is fighting for one thing and one thing only, the financial future of his family. That is the right of any man but boxing fans can’t see past it and think that forcing Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale to meet him at a catch weight for the middleweight crown is not really putting the island’s boxing reputation up too high. It didn’t help either that in the lead up to his last fight Cotto stated that anybody that wants to fight him, needs to do so at his terms and his catch weight for the WBC 160 pound title.
Cotto also left his promoter Top Rank who really know how to promote to an ethnic audience as they have done with Oscar De La Hoya to Mexican-Americans, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr to Mexicans and Cotto to the Puerto Ricans. Cotto’s last fight was in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center and a week prior to the Puerto Rican Parade which he held court at for years.
This year he was nowhere to be found.
Who was there was Verdejo despite hurting his left hand in the later rounds against Najera. Verdejo looked precise, quick and strong as he began the fight boxing from the perimeter but once he dropped Najera in the fifth with a precise left hook to the chin he began to up the ante. Najera proved to be tough as nails and despite getting hit with everything but the corner stool hung in there and looked to win until the final bell. All those hopes were dashed when he got dropped again in the seventh but Najera kept coming forward. Verdejo proved to be too strong and too quick.
Let’s see if he is against the higher level of the class.