On December 12th, Felix Verdejo (27-2) and Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1) engaged in a fantastic battle inside of the "The Bubble" at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The fight served as the ESPN co-feature underneath the Shakur Stevenson-Toka Khan Clary main event.
Verdejo started off strong, dropping Nakatani in the 1st and 4th round but the once beaten Japanese fighter kept his composure and continued to pressure Verdejo. In the second half of the fight Verdejo began to wear down and was dropped twice in the 9th round when the fight was stopped.
The loss snapped a 4 fight win streak for the Puerto Rican and was Nakatani's first ring appearance since suffering his only career defeat to Teofimo Lopez in July, 2019.
Angel "Memo" Heredia, who had previously served as Verdejo's strength and conditioning coach was impressed by the way that he started off the fight but believes that better conditioning training could have changed the outcome of the fight.
"Felix was doing good in the first part of the fight and then I noticed his conditioning was fading. These kinds of fights when you have opponents that are bigger than you and taller than you - these Japanese boxers train very hard - you can expect not only a difficult fight but an intense fight in terms of conditioning. Boxing wise, Felix was doing good and moving around but then I noticed and felt that he started to fade in the 6th round, 7th, 8th and then the 9th. Those rounds are the most important rounds for any fighter. Especially when it is a world title fight or an intense fight," Heredia explained to BoxingScene.com.
"If you notice the Japanese fighter was dropped twice by Felix but he was able to get up and he continued to go forward. He always had his legs and his balance and continued with his plan. Felix was fading out and he lost control of the fight. He tried to recharge between rounds and Nakatani kept moving forward and took the momentum. He got Felix hurt in the 7th round and he wasn't able to recover. He was even more tired and the guy just kept coming forward. I truly believe that Felix - I know this for a fact because I trained him for 3 camps - I wasn't with him for this fight. He is not only a great kid and a friend of mine but I know his will and I know he has great abilities but he needs to put everything together. If he does that and comes back stronger for a 10 or 12 rounder he should be okay."
Verdejo is still only 27 years old and Heredia believes there is still plenty of time to fulfill the potential he showed that made him a highly sought after 2012 Olympian. He will likely have to take a step back but Heredia is confident that with the right conditioning he will be successful for whatever plan that Top Rank puts in place.
"Do I believe Felix can come back and perhaps become a world champion? Yes, I have always said that and I believe in him. Now, he obviously needs to make some changes with his conditioning. Like I said, he is a good kid and has a good future. He probably needs to take a step back for a few fights or whatever plan Mr. Arum has for him. It will take time, maybe another year but it will be good for him and it will give him more confidence. I am sure he is still hungry and he showed that he is capable of doing it by dropping Nakatani twice but conditioning wise he just wasn't there," said Heredia.
Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ringsidewriter