Before HBO Fight, Felix Verdejo Stops By Betances Center

Rich Mancuso-100x100Verdejo ready for next step Saturday at the Garden


By Rich Mancuso


New York —  Felix Verdejo the 22-year old lightweight sensation from San Juan is on the verge of becoming the next boxing superstar from Puerto Rico. Felix Trinidad, the Hall of Fame champion is compared to Verdejo because of their styles and there is the popularity for the two in their native homeland.


Felix Verdejo_TwitterSaturday night at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Verdejo makes his fifth appearance at the venue in the co-feature bout opposing William Silva of Brazil on an HBO televised card of boxing that is highlighted with junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford opposing Hank Lundy.


And many of those fans of boxing from Puerto Rico will be looking for Verdejo to continue that rise as possibly being the next Trinidad. There are comparisons also to Miguel Cotto, the only four-time division champion from Puerto Rico.


However, Verdejo, fighting for the WBO Latino Championship does not look at this being a comparable issue to those legendary champions. As Verdejo once again said Thursday afternoon through an interpreter, “I am working to get there.”


And there are those who say, Verdejo will never top the popularity or in ring styles of Trinidad and Cotto.  This is boxing and styles makes fights as does a proper marketing plan that his promoters at Top Rank have formulated for him.


“Great personality, great smile, and he is a tremendous fighter,” said Bob Arum the longtime promoter of Top Rank who also had the promotional rights to Trinidad and Cotto.  And that speaks volumes, as Arum looks to continue promoting Verdejo at the Garden and in the main arena.


Cotto, now with another promotional company  drew a record number of sellouts at the Garden and was the main event in June at the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade during his tenure at Top Rank. That helped propel the popularity of Cotto more with the New York Puerto Rican community, in between holding a public workout at an annual street fair in the Bronx and speaking to kids at community centers in the tri state area.


The Garden has held the date of June 11 for Top Rank. Yes, that is the eve of the parade and like Cotto, Verdejo will be the headliner before a rabid fan base.


Arum commented, “It’s the same plan with Felix.” But, Arum who knows a little bit of something about marketing a fighter, with nearly 50-years in the business, sees Verdejo offering more because of that smile. Trinidad was at times under the promotional banner of Don King who had a different approach, and Cotto, according to Arum, did not have the personality.


“I want between Puerto Rico, San Juan, Orlando a big Puerto Rican city and the Garden to keep him fighting in those places,” said Arum with a smile. “Think he will be a champion by end of the a superstar.”


There was Trinidad and Cotto with a smile and persona, but there is something different that Felix Verdejo offers when he visits residents of the Latino community.


Tuesday afternoon in the South Bronx, Verdejo visited the Betances Community Center and discussed his experiences in the boxing ring and what it takes to get where he is. That resulted in smiles on the faces of the kids and there was an instant connection.


“I’m very thankful to all the Puerto Ricans here and the Bronx,” Verdejo said through an interpreter. “Hope they like the fight.” Eventually, Arum is looking to Verdejo speaking English without assistance similar to the way Trinidad and Cotto learned.  That helps with marketing and in good standing with the media as well.


At the final pre fight press conference in the Garden Chase Plaza area, Arum added about his rising superstar,”This is the full picture. Think he will be a champion by end of the year…be a superstar.”


And that status he labeled on Verdejo, will be within the next two years.  But marketing a fighter does take time, and of course patience. Verdejo takes an undefeated 19-0 mark with 14 KO’s into the ring Saturday night against a tough foe in Silva who also looks to stay unblemished with a 23-0 record and 14 KO’s.


Verdejo had a temporary setback  last June at the Garden Theatre in his debut on HBO. He hurt his left hand in a win over Ivan Najera that would eventually require surgery and removal of bone spurs. In December, he returned and easily disposed Josenilson Dos Santos in two rounds in San Juan.


So the issues for Verdejo are past him, and he says the hand will be no obstacle when the bell rings Saturday night before a sold out crowd at the Theatre.  He is working harder and taking fights deeper into the late rounds, realizing also that tougher opponents are ahead in a competitive and exciting division of the sport.


“Very happy to fight here and for the fans in New York City,” Verdejo said. And with another win possibly on the radar that next step to stardom is within reach.

Comment Rich Mancuso:   Twitter@Ring786

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