By Sean Crose
There were lots of high hopes for Felix Verdejo as he stepped into the ring in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Friday night. Indeed, the 18-0 lightweight was getting the love from his hometown crowd as his name was announced before his twelve round bout with 27-3 Brazilian Josenilson Dos Santos (27-3). Although Dos Santos was clearly the taller man, Verdejo was the faster and more mobile of the two in the opening round.
A vicious shot sent Dos Santos down in the second, and – thanks to that thunderous overhand projectile – that was that. While the crowd went nuts – among them the iconic Felix Trinidad, Verdejo soaked it all in. Indeed, it was short, sweet and entertaining for the audience. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Dos Santos, who appeared to be in both emotional, as well as perhaps physical, pain afterwards.
“It’s an honor for me to fight in front of Tito,” Verdejo said in the post-fight ring interview, before making it clear that he was eager to “see what happens,” in the future.
Make no mistake about it, the kid from San Juan has star power. He’s got skill, wrecking ball shots and a first rate ability to charm. Yup, Verdejo is a likeable sort, which – let’s face it – separates him a bit from the sometimes dour (and fellow Puerto Rican) legend Miguel Cotto. Indeed, there might be a lot worth seeing in this lightweight with the easy smile.
Of course, it’s good not to jump up and down atop the bandwagon during such times, either. Bob Arum and the gang at Top Rank – which promotes Verdejo – are in the business of creating buzz, after all. Still, Verdejo makes it easy to see great promise. Television commentator Ray Mancini, for instance, always calls it like he sees it – and he’s effusive in his praise of the undefeated attraction.
Coupled with Nonito Donaire’s near loss earlier on in the evening, it was an entertaining night of boxing overall. Still, fans were missing something. Or rather someone. And that someone was Manny Pacquiao, who everyone was told would be choosing his next opponent during the truTV broadcast.
That simply didn’t happen, though – as Manny was apparently still undecided on who he wants to face next April. Yet the intriguing battles in the ring effectively made things worthwhile for those watching, both in the arena and at home. Pacquiao or no Pacquiao, it was essentially a successful boxing card.