By Miguel Rivera
Puerto Rican lightweight contender Felix 'El Diamante' Verdejo will be looking to turn away from 2017, as he aims for a fresh start in the new year.
After living through a year of stagnation due to physical injuries and bad luck in several negotiations, Verdejo needs 2018 to bring him better luck in order to be able to reconsolidate his status as Puerto Rico's best prospect in boxing.
Therefore, his plan for the new year is simple: start with a renewed vigor that brings him closer to a top opportunity at 135 pounds.
The lightweight is scheduled to return to the ring on March 17, as part of a Top Rank card at The Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York.
For Verdejo, 24 years old, the commitment will mark the first fight for him since this past February, when he struggled to defeat Oliver Flores by unanimous decision.
"It will be a ten round preparatory fight. I do not have much information beyond the date and that it will be at Madison Square Garden. The idea was that (Verdejo) would fight this year, but because of the problems that arose, it could not be done," said Ricky Márquez, Verdejo's manager and head coach, to Carlos Gonzalez.
The problems being referred to by Márquez are varied. First there were complications in negotiating a title fight with Terry Flanagan, who at the time was the WBO 135-pound champion. At the time Verdejo was the mandatory challenger. And after the fight was finally agreed upon, it was canceled due to an injury to Flanagan.
But that was not all.
After moving his training camp to Big Bear, California, Verdejo could not return to the ring either because he also suffered an injury, which led him to sit out for the remainder of the year.
The WBO dropped him in the rankings to the sixth position.
Márquez said that Verdejo is clear about his goals and he's motivated to work hard to re-emerge in the division.
"Felix will be training. He will take a few days of rest during the holidays and in January we return to work hard again. We will do the training program based on the weeks remaining for the fight," explained Márquez.
Verdejo is likely slated to face Antonio Lozada, who was going to be Verdejo's opponent in February before the Puerto Rican fighter got injured.