Lightweight contender Felix 'El Diamante' Verdejo suffered the second defeat of his career last Saturday night, when he was knocked out in the ninth round by Japan's Masayoshi Nakatani at the MGM Grand's Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The loss was a huge blow to Verdejo, who was being lined up for a potential clash with unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez in 2021.
“That loss affects him tremendously. Let's be honest,” said Verdejo promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, to Carlos Gonzalez. "He's not finished. He can improve and recover. But it is a big setback."
The first defeat took place in 2018, also by knockout, but very few were surprised when it happened because Verdejo was lackluster in some of his prior performances.
The second loss, meanwhile, came at a bad time because Verdejo had changed his entire training team and looked great in his recent fights. In his most recent fight, he blew out Will Madera in a single round with a sensational knockout.
Even against Nakatani, he scored two knockdowns in the first four rounds and was well ahead on the scorecards - until Nakatani began to take over in the seventh, and dropped Verdejo twice in the ninth to end the fight.
“Verdejo looked brilliant, but he ran out of gas. Nakatani, who was brave, recovered and got his punches inside. That's how it is,” Arum said.
Now that Verdejo is out of the mix for major fights in the coming year, Arum explained that his company will be forced to draw up a new path for the Puerto Rican Olympian. Verdejo turns 28 in May.
“Now we have to sit down again to make a new plan. We believe in him. We are not going to give up on him, although it was a big setback," Arum said.