It's Now or Never for Felix Verdejo
Published: July 08, 2017
It is finally official. Puerto Rico’s Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo (23-0, 15 KOs) will be heading over to the United Kingdom to take on WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs). At just 24 years old it feels like a title shot has been in the works for a while for the Puerto Rican. In fact, a fight with Flanagan was intended to take place in 2016 before Verdejo was in a motorcycle accident in the summer sidelining him for the remainder of the year.
At one point Verdejo was arguably the most prominent prospect in the sport of boxing. In a short amount of time, he reached a sustained level of popularity in his native Puerto Rico that even garnered him a co-sign from the island’s most popular fighter in Felix Trinidad. The hype machine behind Verdejo in Puerto Rico and his promoter Top Rank was in full force as many thought the young man was next in line to follow the steps of his predecessor, Miguel Cotto.
What goes up must come down and for Verdejo, things starting to go down on his first appearance on HBO. In his fight with Ivan Najera (17-3, 8 KOs) in June 2015, Verdejo suffered an injury to his left hand requiring surgery that stalled his momentum. Since then Verdejo has put on inconsistent performances that have failed to impress, and many have decided to jump off the Verdejo bandwagon. While many were looking for the next Felix Trinidad, it seemed that they might have found the next Juan Manuel Lopez instead.
In Verdejo’s last fight against Oliver Flores (27-3-2, 17 KOs) this past February, the Puerto Rican once against failed to impress while winning a unanimous decision. The speculation then turned to Verdejo either not getting the right sparring in Puerto Rico or simply not being able to focus in training camps. Rather than progressing with each fight, Verdejo hit a plateau and was now starting to regress as a fighter. It was now time for a change.
Verdejo and his team decided to head to the west coast to train under renowned trainer Abel Sanchez. Sanchez most famously trains middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. It is unclear if Sanchez will be the new head trainer for Verdejo, but a change of scenery to get away from potential distractions may help the young fighter reach his potential.
Verdejo has no easy task in front of him come September. Flanagan is an undefeated technician who is only getting better with each passing fight. In his last performance last April, he defeated the always-tough Petr Petrov (38-5-2, 19 KOs) winning a wide unanimous decision. Verdejo will be taking a huge leap in competition against Flanagan. Top Rank’s Vice President Carl Moretti spoke with ESPN regarding Verdejo facing Flanagan.
All eyes on the island of Puerto Rico will be on Verdejo come September. There are no current male boxing champions from Puerto Rico with only the Serrano Sisters making a claim as world champions. One of whom, Amanda Serrano will be making the transition over to mixed martial arts later this year. Regardless of the circumstances, it was time for Top Rank to roll the dice on Verdejo to see if the kid is the real deal or not. It is now or never for Verdejo, all questions will be answered on Sept. 16th.
(Feature Photo: Top Rank Boxing)