Verdejo on his way to being the next Miguel Cotto at the Garden could be possible

By Rich Mancuso

 It has been a busy week in New York City for the undefeated Felix Verdejo. The pride of San Juan Puerto Rico, 12-0, 9 KO’s, is one of the participants in a main undercard bout at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. He opposes, 9-1, Engelberto Valenzuela in a six round lightweight bout prior to the middleweight title clash with Miguel Cotto and the champion Sergio Martinez.

While Cotto has been quietly busy making his appearances at media workouts, Verdejo has been in the spotlight. In previous years when Cotto fought at the Garden he held an annual public workout on the street at a Puerto Rican festival in the south Bronx, attended a New York Yankees game days before a title defense.

Though Verdejo is still many fights from a championship, he is quickly becoming a popular fighter under the Top Rank banner. And like Cotto, he is fighting in the main arena at the Garden and making the rounds. The festival this past Saturday welcomed their new star and he also got his first hand look at the Yankees Sunday afternoon.

“I am a Yankees fan and a fan of Carlos Beltran,” the 21-year old knockout artist said Wednesday afternoon at the Garden theatre, a room filled with Latino media that were anxiously waiting to talk with him. It was the final press conference for the Cotto fight and he sat patiently with his manager and handlers.

Cotto did his talking for a final time. Verdejo, who has been tabbed as the possible next boxing superstar from Puerto Rico, is in good company. Though his promoters believe there is more time before he can be classified as the next Felix Trinidad or a Miguel Cotto.

However, the way Verdejo is being pushed, fighting often, and getting quick knockouts, the potential to get there could come soon. A member of the 2013 Puerto Rico Olympic team, Verdejo has been disposing opponents early. Two of his last ten fights scheduled for

six-rounds went the distance where he got the unanimous decision.

When you get to fight at the Garden, in the main arena where thousands of rabid Cotto fans will be heard, it is like fighting in the main event. However, Verdejo will just go about his business and look for another win as he continues his attempt to achieve similar success.

 He said, through his trainer and translator, Ricardo Jimenez of Top Rank,” Very happy Top Rank putting me on the card. This is comfortable, like another home, a lot of Puerto Ricans here.” He was responding to questions about the sell-out crowd that will be cheering for him before Cotto gets in the ring.

“It motivates me to be better. Incredible they compare me to big stars this point in my career. I    keep working hard in the gym… keep developing maybe for those expectations. I’m very grateful for fighting here just waiting for the love of all the Puerto Ricans and Latinos here cause they will take me to another level.”

Years ago, when a young Miguel Cotto made his debut in New York, the same comments could be heard. And there is something about continuing the development at the Garden, “The Mecca” of boxing on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Cotto is anticipating becoming the first four-division champion from Puerto Rico and once again will participate in the parade. On the other hand, as much as Verdejo wants to be alongside Cotto, he has made other plans.

 After the fight, he, his handlers and the promoter Bob Arum will take a plane ride and be a part of the Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremonies up in Canasota New York. There is a reason why they are bypassing the parade and it is a good one:

Felix Trinidad, the three-time champion and fellow countryman is having his day as one of the newest inductees into the Hall of Fame.

Verdejo said, he would not want to miss that special moment. Trinidad was an instrumental reason, along with Cotto, as to why he has quickly climbed the ladder to success. Perhaps, with the correct plan and continued success one day the Hall of Fame will be calling his name. For now it is one step at a time with an assessment when the year is over.

“I leave that in the hand of my managers and my promoters, “he says.  “God takes it where he decides.  I always come out to box, but if the hand comes and the guy falls it’s not my fault. I come up boxing.”

The quest will continue Saturday night and time will tell.

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