By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Before Saturday night, Bob Arum still held out hope for Felix Verdejo.
Even after all the injuries, subpar preparation and drama that slowed the lightweight contender’s development, his promoter wanted to believe that the Puerto Rican fighter would reach his potential. Not even Arum remains hopeful following Verdejo’s 10th-round technical knockout loss Saturday night to Antonio Lozada Jr. in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“Verdejo was very disappointing,” Arum said. “I thought he was winning the fight when he got knocked out.”
The 24-year-old Verdejo (23-1, 15 KOs) was ahead on two of three scorecards entering the 10th and final round of his lightweight fight against Mexico’s Lozada (39-2, 33 KOs).
The bigger, stronger Lozada dropped the once-prized prospect in the 10th round, though, and knocked Verdejo around the ring once he got up. Verdejo tried his best to hold, move and survive, but a New York State Athletic Commission physician decided a battered, bloodied Verdejo was taking too much punishment and ordered referee Eddie Claudio to stop the fight with 23 seconds left in it.
Verdejo, who fought for the first time in 13 months, also was hurt by a Lozada right hand during the fifth round. The 2012 Olympian boxed well at times during their non-televised fight, but he couldn’t hurt Lozada, who pressured Verdejo throughout their bout.
“Verdejo, I am so disappointed,” Arum said. “After the 2012 Olympics, we signed three young men – Oscar Valdez, Jose Ramirez and Felix Verdejo. And everybody at Top Rank felt that Verdejo was the best prospect. And look what happened.”
What happened was Verdejo failed to even get a title shot, much less become boxing’s next Miguel Cotto, while Valdez and Ramirez have won world titles at featherweight and super lightweight, respectively. He was the mandatory contender for the WBO lightweight title in 2016, yet suffered multiple injuries during a motorcycle accident in August 2016 and never got that shot.
Verdejo also has resisted replacing longtime trainer Ricky Marquez, who’s also his manager, and didn’t want to train away from Puerto Rico.
“It’s a lack of discipline,” Arum said. “He has gone back so far, and you know, maybe he can put it together and come back, because coming out of the 2012 Olympics, he had the most talent of any of them. When I asked [Vasyl] Lomachenko, who fought all three of them in the amateurs [Ramirez, Valdez and Verdejo], who was the best, he said, Verdejo, by far.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.