By Jake Donovan, photos by Reynaldo "Chorizo Grande" Sanchez
Felix Verdejo (14-0, 10KOs) plays the Orlando region for the second time in the span of one full calender year. His latest trek to Central Florida comes in the form of a 10-round bout versus Sergio Villanueva (26-4-2, 13KOs) in the headlining edition of UniMas Solo Boxeo this Saturday at Bahia Shrine Temple.
Both fighters came well within the lightweight limit: Verdejo tipped the scales at a chiseled 134.8 lb., while Villanueva came in at a lean and ready 133.2
The lightweight representative for the 2012 Puerto Rico Olympic Boxing team in London first appeared in the region exactly 52 weeks ago, on the undercard of the same show that saw Miguel Cotto make his debut in Central Florida.
The pair of Boricua stars, future and present, also fought on the same show in Madison Square Garden earlier this year. The June card was part of one of the biggest weekends in the history of Puerto Rico boxing; Cotto became the island's first ever boxer to win titles in four weight classes, tearing through Sergio Martinez to claim the World middleweight crown less than 24 hours before former three-division champ Felix 'Tito' Trinidad was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Verdejo's part in the weekend carried far lesser significance, but was an important step in his career as he knocked out in one round.
His last performance was an eight-round decision win over Oscar Bravo this past August in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Villanueva (26-4-2, 13KOs) enters having lost two of his last three starts. Saturday's bout marks his stateside debut, having previously fought in Philippines and Canada in his lone fights outside of his native Mexico.
In the co-feature, budding featherweight contender Gamalier Rodriguez squares off versus Martin Cardona in a scheduled six-round bout.
Rodriguez (24-3-2, 16KOs) came in at 129 lb.; Cardona was 128.6 lb.
The bout marks Rodriguez' second straight trip to the Bahia Shrine Temple. His last ring appearance at the hosting venue resulted in the biggest win of his career, scoring an upset 10-round decision over former title challenger Orlando Cruz this past April, extending his current run to 16 straight wins following an 8-2-3 start to his career.
An undercard loaded with prospects also includes: Esquiva Falcao, who captured Olympic Silver as a middleweight for Brazil in the 2012 London Olympics; unbeaten Puerto Rican prospects Jantony Ortiz, Christopher Diaz and Anthony Mercado; and Miami-based featherweight Neslan Machado.
Felix Verdejo, 134.8 lb. vs. Sergio Villaneuva, 133.2 - 8 rounds, lightweight
Gamalier Rodriguez, 129 lb. vs. Martin Cardona, 128.6 - 8 rounds, super featherweight
Esquiva Falcao, 158.2 lb. vs. Austin Marcum, 158 lb. - 6 rounds, middleweight
Christopher Diaz, 125.8 lb. vs. Francisco Camacho, 126.6 lb. - 6 rounds, featherweight
Anthony Mercado, 138.6 lb. vs. Esteban Villaleba, 140.2 lb. - 6 rounds, super lightweight
Jantony Ortiz, 114.2 lb. vs. Gilberto Mendoza, 112.8 lb. - 4 rounds, super flyweight
Neslan Machado, 125 lb. vs. Stephon McIntyre, 123.8 lb. - 4 rounds, featherweight
Jovan Perez, 138 lb. vs. Berthin Rousseau, 139.8 lb. - 4 rounds, super lightweight
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox