Can Felix Verdejo make a successful return?
By Hector Franco
February 2, 2017
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - This Friday night at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico fans will witness the return of one of the top prospects in boxing in Felix Verdejo (22-0, 15 KOs). This past summer Verdejo was in a motorcycle accident that stalled his career by keeping him out of the ring for the remainder of the year.
The young Puerto Rican was in line for a title shot against the WBO lightweight champion, Terry Flanagan (31-0, 12 KOs). Flanagan will likely be defending his title later this year against Petr Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs). The WBO is a Puerto Rico based organization that has a close relationship with Verdejo’s promoter Top Rank. It’s possible that Verdejo may still get a shot at whoever holds the WBO title in the future.
The hype train behind Verdejo was huge in 2014. There were even those who compared the young fighter to one of Puerto Rico’s greatest, Felix Trinidad. Although Verdejo holds some of the same charisma as Trinidad outside of the ring, inside of the ring, there isn’t much to compare. Trinidad was a world champion by the time he was 20 years old and by the time he was 26 he had made 15 title defenses of his title. Needless to say, these comparisons were more fantasy than reality.
Coming into 2017, the hype train behind Verdejo has come to a near halt. In 2015, Verdejo suffered a hand injury that kept him out of the ring for six months. This was followed by a few subpar performances against common opponents. It seemed that he was regressing rather than progressing. Now with a motorcycle accident keeping him out of the ring for another six months, fans may have questions as to how Verdejo will perform from here on out.
The Puerto Rican’s opponent this Friday will be Oliver Flores (27-2-2, 17 KOs) from Leon, Nicaragua. Flores is unknown to most boxing fans, but he has faced some real competition in losing efforts. In his last fight in December 2015, he faced off against longtime 130-pound champion, Takashi Uchiyama (24-2-1, 20 KOs). He even stepped in the ring with the recently crowned WBC 130-pound champion Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) in 2012. Both men stopped the Nicaraguan. With Flores being out of the ring for over a year it may not be a surprise that he was chosen to face Verdejo in his return.
Many in the sport will be rooting for the success of Verdejo. The recent destruction of Jose Pedraza by the hands of Gervonta Davis this past January has left the island of Puerto Rico with no champion based on the island. The bar may have been set too high for Verdejo at the beginning of his career leaving him with nowhere to go but down. At this point, Verdejo’s team needs to concentrate on the success of their young talent rather than how he will rank with the likes of Felix Trinidad.
Other fighters have come back from near fatal accidents to be successful in boxing. Verdejo certainly has the time to improve and move up at the needed pace being only 23 years of age. The hope for many will be that he returns to be what many envisioned. The island of Puerto Rico and the state of boxing will be better for it.
(Featured Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)