3 More Rounds

Ringside Report: Walters Notches Victory; Verdejo Impresses

Photo: Will Hart / HBO

Photo: Will Hart / HBO

Not every fight can live up to expectations and that was the case on Saturday night at the Theater of Madison Square Garden where Nicholas Walters (26-0, 21 KOs) put in a fairly pedestrian performance to notch a unanimous decision victory over amateur foe Miguel Marriaga (20-1, 18 KOs). Coming in to the bout there was a cloud of controversy when Walters was forced to surrender his featherweight title after failing to make weight. His performance did little to erase that controversy, as he put in a workmanlike performance against his much smaller opponent. Much of the once-hot Garden crowd that had packed the venue to see Puerto Rican prospect Felix Verdejo had left by the end of the fight when the scorecards of were announced.

The first several rounds were a back-and-forth affair in which both men traded sparing shots and took turns initiating. However, the problem appeared to arise from the fact that both men were cognizant of each other’s respective power and hardly engaged at a level which would take the fight to the next level. If anything, Walters body work appeared to secure him much of the early rounds, although Marriaga did manage to hit a few notable left hooks in between Walters’ body barrage.

By the middle rounds, it appeared that Walters larger frame had begun to wear on Marriaga who was not initiating at a high enough clip to keep Walters off him. When he did attempt to reengage in the ninth round, he was met by a counter right hand which placed him on the canvas. Walters, however, failed to take advantage and the two individuals largely coasted to the bell.

It must be said that the event was largely viewed as a disappointment. Coming into Saturday, this fight was seen as a possible barn burner and a launching pad for Nicholas Walters into a big fight with Vasyl Lomanchenko. However, those plans may be muted. Let’s just put it this way, at one point in the night there was over 3,000 individuals in attendance. There was maybe a 1,000 by the final bell.

Puerto Rico can rest easy. After a spell of failed Puerto Rican prospects and flame-out titlists, much-heralded lightweight prospect Felix Verdejo (18-0, 13 KOs) appears posed to inherit the mantle held by the likes of Cotto and Trinidad. Verdejo battered fellow prospect Ivan Najera (16-1, 8 KOs) over the course of 10 lopsided rooms and managed to down his opponent twice in the bout. The crowd at the The Theater at Madison Square Garden were largely there to see Verdejo, who was fighting on the eve of New York’s Puerto Rican Day Parade; a tradition which formerly belonged to Miguel Cotto. Verdejo did not disappoint.

The bout started with Verdejo largely using his bigger frame to control distance and exert himself against a smaller opponent. Najera, however, was not content on collecting a paycheck and attempted to press the pace in the second and third rounds; however, that is when Verdejo began coming alive displaying an impressive repertoire of body shots, hooks and uppercuts. This was on display in the fourth round when a scintillating uppercut knocked Najera to the ground and from there the route was on.

Verdejo showed a wide range of boxing skills in preventing Najera from re-entering the fight, despite his opponent’s best efforts. This was exemplified by the fact that Verdejo landed over 51 percent of his power punches; much of it with his right hand, as it became apparent as the fight wore on that Verdejo was favoring his left. One more knockdown would follow – this time a left hook – and Verdejo would coast into an easy unanimous decision victory that sets him up prime for a major future.

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