by David P. Greisman
Madison Square Garden, New York City - Rising lightweight prospect and budding Puerto Rican star Felix Verdejo needed less than half a round to dispatch of Engelberto Valenzuela, proving quickly to referee Arthur Mercante Jr. that this was a mismatch that did not need to go on any longer.
Verdejo landed a good right hand early, began to mix body shots with hooks and crosses upstairs, and soon unloaded with Valenzuela in the corner. Valenzuela stumbled out of the corner to the canvas, rose, and took more punishment. A series of body shots brought Mercante jumping in just 77 seconds into the round.
Verdejo, 21, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is now 13-0 with 10 KOs. Valenzuela, 30, of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, is now 8-2 with 3 KOs, according to BoxRec, or 9-2 with 3 KOs, according to the bout sheet handed out at ringside. His only previous loss, a first-round knockout in August 2013, came the only other time he faced someone with a winning record.
- Junior-featherweight prospect Jose Lopez remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Raul Hidalgo, though the fight was more competitive than the scores would indicate — and the victory was neither impressive nor crowd-pleasing.
The scores were 80-72 (twice) and 79-73. The bout felt like a slow sparring session, with Lopez at times unwilling to pull the trigger, or throwing punches that were easily evaded, or getting countered by Hidalgo. Lopez did have more moments, did land more shots and did deserve the decision.
This was only the fourth opponent with a winning record for Lopez, a 20-year-old from Carolina, Puerto Rico, who improves to 14-0 with 11 KOs, per BoxRec, or 13-0 with 10 KOs, per the bout sheet handed out at ringside.
Hidalgo, 25, of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico, falls to 21-11 with 16 KOs. Some of his other defeats have come against up-and-coming fighters, including Jessie Magdaleno, Ivan Morales and Daiki Kameda.
- Jose Pedraza (132.4 pounds) remained undefeated with a one-sided one-round beatdown of Arturo Uruzquieta (131.6 pounds), who was battered with numerous body shots and the occasional hard blows upstairs.
The body work had Uruzquieta reeling and retreating. About halfway into the round, Pedraza landed a good one-two and then returned back downstairs. Uruzquieta tried to retaliate, but his left hooks targeting the body were easily blocked by Pedraza’s right elbow and forearm.
Pedraza soon got Uruzquieta in a corner and kept on punching until Uruzquieta went down. The referee, Arthur Mercante Jr., had seen enough and ended the bout at the 2:19 mark.
Pedraza, 25, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, is now 17-0 with 11 KOs. Uruzquieta, of Mexico City, Mexico, is now 15-6 with 6 KOs.
- Willie Nelson initially thought he would be fighting on the televised pay-per-view undercard to Martinez-Cotto, facing Andy Lee on the broadcast. Instead, he was in the second fight and in front of a small audience, stopping shopworn Darryl Cunningham in the first round.
Nelson dropped Cunningham with a right hand about halfway through the round. Cunningham got up at seven, and soon Nelson had Cunningham pinned in a corner, where he rocked him with a left hook and a right uppercut, and then followed with more blows that had Cunningham taking a knee for respite. Cunningham barely got up by the count of nine. The ringside physician bounded up the steps and called for the referee’s attention, and the bout was waved off.
The end came 2 minutes and 43 seconds into the round.
Nelson, 27, of Cleveland and now fighting out of Youngstown, Ohio, improves to 22-1-1 with 13 KOs. He has now won six in a row since his 2011 decision loss to Vincent Arroyo down at welterweight.
Cunningham, 39, of Detroit, Michigan, falls to 29-7 with 11 KOs. Those defeats also include quick knockout losses to Andre Dirrell in late 2011 and to Andy Lee last year. His previous appearance before this bout was a fourth-round stoppage loss in October against a 4-13 foe named Cameron Allen.
- In the show’s opener, Jantony Ortiz (113.5 pounds) won his pro debut, quickly knocking out Elio David Ruiz (112.2 pounds). The end came at 1:50 of the first round.
Ortiz, 19, of Humacao, Puerto Rico, is now 1-0 with 1 KO. Ruiz, 21, of Plainview, Texas, is now 1-5 with no knockouts.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]