Felix Verdejo got a late bump to the main event on tonight’s Top Rank Boxing on ESPN broadcast, and the Puerto Rican fighter, once expected to be a big star in the sport, made the most of it.
Verdejo (27-1, 17 KO) smashed Will Madera in the first round, dropping and stopping his opponent at 2:59.
Verdejo, 27, hurt Madera (15-1-3, 8 KO) on a flurry, and then dropped him after pushing the previously-unbeaten (but largely untested, to be fair) Madera to the corner, where Verdejo landed a lead right uppercut, a follow-up right hand upstairs, and a left hook to put Madera down hard.
Madera wasn’t getting up and referee Robert Hoyle stopped the fight.
This was Verdejo’s second fight with acclaimed trainer Ismael Salas, following a January win over Manny Rojas where Verdejo sort of worked through 10 uninspiring rounds. Determination and desire have long been the questions about Verdejo, but tonight he showed a real killer instinct.
“In terms of the technical and tactical work, we did work explicitly on certain things in camp, but more importantly, I was just listening to him,” Verdejo told Bernardo Osuna post-fight. “He told me, ‘Stay steady, stay calm, get out there and do what you know how to do. Keep that jab out there, use that front hand to set up the follow-ups.’ I did that, and came out with the win.”
Verdejo stressed that while he got a quick win, he didn’t do it with reckless abandon.
“I took my time. I came out here settled, I wanted to measure what he had, how hard he hit,” he said. “Once I figured that out, I just did it, I let my hands go — but always under control, and the knockout came.”
Verdejo was once seen as a top prospect in the sport and was a prized signing for Top Rank out of the 2012 Olympics, but an upset loss to Antonio Lozada in 2018 was followed by a string of performances that earned mixed reviews at best, even though he was getting wins.
After this performance, there will be the speculation that Verdejo is “back” to what everyone thought he might be, and he’s saying just that himself.
“Stay ready, because Felix Verdejo is back, and I’m ready to fight against the best. That’s my message to all of them: be ready.”
And as for the 2012 Olympics, where he lost to the amateur legend Vasiliy Lomachenko but showed a lot of promise in defeat, Verdejo would still like some revenge.
“The top guy at 135 pounds is Vasiliy Lomachenko. He’s the best in the division, but more importantly, we have unfinished business, and I want to get the rematch from what happened in the Olympics.”
If Verdejo really has started to put it back together, he’s absolutely someone to keep an eye on at 135 pounds, which right now is a very fun weight class with the likes of Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, Jorge Linares, Luke Campbell, Richard Commey, maybe Gervonta “Tank” Davis if he stays at 135, and other quality fighters. Verdejo isn’t old and he’s not past the point where he might still be able to capitalize on his ability and pan out as the top fighter he was supposed to be. He could be very interesting going forward, and that feels good to say.
Martino Jules MD-8 Aleem Jumakhonov
This got bumped into the co-feature role. Jules is a 23-year-old southpaw featherweight from Allentown, Penn., and he showed a bit of skill here, but also some trepidation as this fight wore on, with Jumakhonov not going away, giving Jules a bloody nose, and bringing some pressure that Jules had some trouble with.
BLH scored this 76-76, which is also what one of the judges had, but that was overruled by two cards of 78-74 in Jules’ favor, keeping him unbeaten at 10-0 (2 KO). He’s certainly not an A-grade prospect or anything, but in the first few rounds you could definitely see some skill in the young fighter, stuff that can hopefully be polished and fine-tuned and maybe give him a crack to rise up the ladder. But a lack of punching power could be a big factor for him, too.
As for Jumakhonov (8-3-2, 4 KO), this is a 27-year-old fighter, originally from Tajikistan and now based in California, who has the sort of tool set to be a potential fan favorite on B-shows like Golden Boy’s Thursday night series, a guy who could test and maybe even expose some prospects for a few years.
Jared Anderson TKO-1 Hector Perez
This fight got postponed but happened tonight, second fight in The Bubble for both. Anderson, of course, is a legit heavyweight prospect, a 20-year-old blue chipper out of Toledo, and he smashed Puerto Rico’s Perez handily here, dropping and stopping him in 1:45. Perez went down and showed no intention of getting up, really, so referee Russell Mora called it off after an eight count, making it a TKO.
Anderson (5-0, 5 KO) went into the third round last time out on June 9, but was back to first round demolition here. Everyone is fully aware that he’s a LONG way off being a contender, as Perez (7-3, 3 KO) is what the French call “pas très bien,” but there is at least a little bit of speculation as to what sort of steps up he might make over the next year or so.
“Anybody who’s good, anybody,” Anderson said when asked of possible opponents he might fight as he develops. “I want Olympians, I want former world champions, challengers, all of it. Anybody who I can get, really.”
The heavyweight division definitely doesn’t lack for washouts still chugging along and fighting, so he’ll find plenty of willing opponents as he goes along.
Kenny Davis Jr MD-4 Eduardo Sanchez
Generally speaking these are two guys who, fighting one another, would never, ever get on major national TV, but they did, and bless them, they put on a damn fun four-round scrap.
After a pretty even first round, Sanchez came out guns blazing in the second, landing 43 of 130 punches in the round. That work rate seemed to be overwhelming Davis again in the third, until Davis scored with a hard body shot that put Sanchez on the canvas late in the round.
But Davis also hit Sanchez while he was down, which earned a warning to start the fourth and final round, and then Davis lost a point for losing his mouthpiece a second time, which made the scores goofy at 37-37, 38-36, and 38-36, the latter two going Davis’ way and giving him his third straight victory. BLH also had 38-36 Davis for what it’s worth.
The 24-year-old lightweight Davis is now 3-2-1 (0 KO), while the 28-year-old Sanchez falls to 2-3 (0 KO). And for real, hats off to these two guys. They got possibly the only shot they’re ever getting on an ESPN card, and they put on a good fight.