“El Diamante” — Next PR Star?

By James Keefe on June 22, 2014
“El Diamante” — Next PR Star?
He has the charisma and star quality that will see his public appeal grow exponentially.

Verdejo appears well-tuned with solid power and an excellent temperament and I’ve been impressed by his command of the ring…

Coming from the “incredible boxing hotbed of Puerto Rico” (Todd duBoef, Top Rank president), Felix first picked up the gloves back in San Juan at the age of nine. As the fable goes, another local child who happened to be a young ring walker starting throwing rocks at him. “If you have a problem with him, put the boxing gloves on and spar a little bit” was the response from Felix’s father, and so he laced up a pair of mitts and tossed leather for the first time. Seeing how well little Felix managed himself, the other boy’s father suggested going to the El Diamante Gym, where he first met trainer/manager Ricardo Marquez. With an amateur record of 106-17 and numerous tournament appearances/participations he got some decent experience prior to entering the qualifying event for the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Only needing to place in the top four, Verdejo won the competition and at the age of 19, earned his seat on the plane to London.

El Diamante’s curriculum vitae already boasted four gold medals and a silver medal from amateur championships prior to his participation in last year’s Olympics, and it was on this stage that I first came across Felix. Competing in the 60kg (lightweight) class, he scored comfortable victories against Jose Huertas of Panama and Ahmed Mejri of Tunisia before losing 14-9 to the older and more experienced Vasyl Lomachenko in the quarterfinals, which is nothing to be ashamed of considering the Ukrainian’s outstanding amateur credentials.

“Lomachenko told me Verdejo was his toughest fight, and you can’t get a better endorsement than that.”—Bob Arum

Just a few months after the Olympics the Top Rank dogs picked up on the scent of marketability and came sniffing. Since his debut 18 months ago he has been kept active, and has continued to look impressive in overcoming his early assignments. After clocking up a UD against Leonardo Chavez on his debut, he managed six stoppages in his next six fights before being taken six rounds for the first time against Guillermo Delgadillo. In the post-match interview when asked about the nature of the victory, Felix said:

“I had my Puerto Rican pride. I’m very happy because it’s another experience that gives me more maturity at this stage. I think I looked good and the most important thing is that I will be active again really soon.”

That fight preceded a clinical two-round stoppage over Gary Eyer before his most valuable test to date, an outing in Macau which enabled him to demonstrate his skill set on a very big stage indeed.

Fighting on the Pacquiao-Rios undercard, Felix was up against a Thai boxer whose name I thought Jim Lampley did a great job to pronounce in commentary, Petchsamuthr Duanaaymukdahan (it’s not that easy to type either). The fighter nicknamed “El Diamante” is being dubbed as the next Puerto Rican Star (somewhat postponed by Cotto’s recent outing), the next Felix Trinidad, and it didn’t do him any harm getting the full six rounds in what proved to be his ninth consecutive victory as a professional. To his opponent’s credit he was game, persistent and took some good shots without tasting the canvas, but surely Top Rank would have cherry-picked a fighter of such a style to create a Verde-show? (Verdejo, Verdeshow…never mind). 60-53 scorecards across the board elucidate the one-sided nature of the affair, with the almost obtrusive referee taking a point off Duanaaymukdahan for hitting below the belt.

“Right now, I wouldn’t consider him a devastating puncher or anything like that. He’s a sharpshooter. He has that great speed, but as time goes on and he gets that man strength, I think he’s going to become a good puncher.”—Brad Goodman, Top Rank matchmaker

So far in 2014, nobody has lasted the scheduled six. A clinical counter left hook had Lauro Alcantar starfishing in the middle of the ring within the first 30 seconds of the fight, before travelling back to Puerto Rico and stopping Juan Santiago with a sweet overhand right in the third round of their contest. Ivan Zavala stayed down for the count in April in Florida, and on the Cotto-Martinez undercard Engelberto Valenzuela managed to get up before being saved shortly after by Arthur Mercante Jr. Both fighters lasted just over a minute in their attempts to outshine El Diamante, and the Puerto Rican prospect is now scheduled to fight in his first eight-round contest on August 16th back home.

Felix Verdejo has the charisma and star quality that will see his public appeal grow exponentially. As for his boxing ability, he throws fluid combinations, shows good movement and pivots well. He appears well-tuned, with solid power and an excellent temperament and I’ve been impressed by his command of the ring. Fast hands, establishing and working off a sharp jab—these tools have proved enough to take care of the limited opposition he’s faced so far, and hopefully Top Rank (and Cotto Promotions) can nurture Felix with the right tempo of development and exposure.

Jose Torres, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Vasquez, Wilfred Benitez, Hector Camacho, Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto…Felix Verdejo?

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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2012-12-06 Felix Verdejo vs Leonardo Chavez

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  1. Chillin Bori 11:43am, 06/27/2014

    Any list of PR great champs has to begin with Sixto Escobar. Any list that doesn’t include him or Carlos Ortiz is not a real PR greats list. A quick trip to Canastota would clarify all doubts about this very quickly. But James is probaly a young guy so we should cut him some slack.

  2. Pete The Sneak 02:12pm, 06/22/2014


  3. Spider Rico 10:01am, 06/22/2014

    Esteban De Jesus and Carlos Ortiz.

  4. Clarence George 09:46am, 06/22/2014

    All right, I’ll recall the guys with baseball bats.  I’m sure it’s not too late.  Well, probably not.  I’m just an old softy, that’s what I am.

  5. James Keefe 07:08am, 06/22/2014

    *by no means…

  6. James Keefe 07:08am, 06/22/2014

    Apologies CG, the list is my no means exhaustive

  7. Clarence George 06:19am, 06/22/2014

    “Jose Torres, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Vasquez, Wilfred Benitez, Hector Camacho, Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto…Felix Verdejo?”  Why is it that my favorite Puerto Rican fighter, Pedro Montanez, is never mentioned?  I’m thinking of writing a vigorously worded letter of protest.  I’m not sure whom to send it, but that won’t stop me from writing it.  Or at least thinking about writing it.

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