By Miguel Rivera

Rising Puerto Rican lightweight star Felix 'El Diamante' Verdejo left a bad taste during his return to the ring in the starring role of Top Rank's Solo Boxeo card, which that took place on Friday at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum.

Verdejo defeated - with some difficulties - Nicaraguan Oliver Flores by unanimous decision. The performance drew boos from the local fans in attendance. It's not the first fight where Verdejo put in a lackluster performance.

Verdejo's veteran coach and manager, Ricky Maruqez, is not sure as to whether his pupil, now 23-0 with 15 KO's, is ready to go for the 135-pound world title of the World Boxing Organization ( OMB).

Even with his lackluster performance, Verdejo automatically became the mandatory challenger to the WBO crown, which is currently held by Terry Flanagan of the UK.

"I personally do not have the security [of knowing that he's ready for a title shot]. If I really had to say whether or not he was ready, I would say no," said Marquez to Carlos Narvaez. "In my book, I gave him a letter C [for that performance]. I expected more from his performance. I didn't think that inactivity would affect him so much."

The judges saw Verdejo the winner with scores of 99-91, 96-94 and 98-92. However, it was his opponents who at times seemed closer to sending the Puerto Rican boxer to the canvas in the final rounds.

"He says his breathing was fine. But I did not see that power and explosiveness. We have to sit down and evaluate everything that happened. What worries me is the lack of explosiveness. The shoes also gave him problems. He was slipping a lot and that affected him. Now we have to evaluate the next step," Marquez added.

Verdejo had not fought for more than seven months after suffering a severe motor accident that caused several minor injuries.

"I felt the punches of Flores. He's an uncomfortable left-handed fighter. I missed a lot of blows. But that's just it. I need to keep improving little by little," said Verdejo.

Regarding the boos, the young fighter played down their importance.

"The criticisms will always be. No different than good vibes. The people who support me will always be there. It is part of this work," he said. "I have to continue working with my physical condition and improve."