By Miguel Rivera
Felix "El Diamante" Verdejo, once regarded as the best prospect in Puerto Rican boxing and the future heir to the throne of Miguel Cotto, has been declining for the last few years - due to injuries and lackluster performances.
On Saturday night at The Theater in New York's Madison Square Garden, his career came crashing when he was knocked down and then stopped in the tenth round of his clash with knockout artist Antonio Lozada Jr. of Mexico.
Verdejo was coming back after an inactivity stint of 13 months.
If Verdejo would have won, he could have punched his ticket to challenge the current lightweight champion of the World Boxing Organization (WBO), Raymundo Beltrán.
The referee stopped the fight after Verdejo was taking too many punches. The local medical commission signaled to the referee to stop the fight, after Lozada Jr. badly hurt Verdejo in final round and sent him to the canvas. Verdejo had tried to survive.
Verdejo, now 25, saw his record fall to 24-1 and 16KO's. While Lozada Jr. improved to 39-3 and 33 KO's.
Lozada felt Verdejo had nothing left and knew that he needed a knockout in the final round.
And it was good thing that Lozada went for the KO, because Verdejo was winning on two scorecards at the time of the stoppage. The scores were 86-85, 87-84 for Verdejo, and the third saw Lozada win 86-85.
“I knew I had the chance to knock him out. I went for everything in the last round,” Lozada said.
“I felt like I was hurting him with every punch that I landed, even the jab. In the last round, I just kept on throwing, landing, and hurting him. Most people thought I couldn’t win this fight, and I shocked a lot of people.
"We knew that this was going to be the result of the fight anyway. I was going to continue pressuring him and all that taunting he was doing was going to end. It was just a matter of time. If he didn't make a decision to quit, the knockout was coming. Again, it was just a matter of time."