One of the sport’s potential future stars will be back in action this weekend, when undefeated lightweight sensation Felix Verdejo of Puerto Rico returns to the theater at Madison Square Garden, to face fellow unbeaten William Silva of Brazil. The bout is the featured undercard on Terence Crawford’s title defense against Hank Lundy.
With a built-in Puerto Rican fanbase and Top Rank as a promoter, Verdejo has everything lined up to become a true draw, so long as he can continue to take care of his business in the ring. So far, he has very much appeared to have the goods.
Just 22, Felix Verdejo represented Puerto Rico in London at the 2012 Olympics, where he won a pair of fights before coming up short against eventual Gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko. Verdejo turned professional in December of 2012 and has competed an average of six times a year since. In April 2015 he won the vacant WBO Latino lightweight title with a Round 5 TKO of Marco Antonio Lopez. Last June he pounded previously undefeated Ivan Najera on the Nicholas Walter-Miguel Marriaga undercard.
In addition to being undefeated, Silva will also present a rarity for Verdejo in the lightweight division, a taller opponent, though Verdejo will actually have the half-inch edge in reach, 71.5″ to 71″. Silva is 6’1″, while Verdejo stand 5’9″. Silva will most likely be a step up in competition for Verdejo and it will be interesting to see how he handles a taller opponent.
The lightweight division is wide-open and the winner of this clash should be in position for a world-title shot. None of the belt holders at 135 pounds really stand out from the pack. I personally rank WBC champion Jorge Linares as the No. 1 fighter in the division, but he’s been stopped three times in his career. WBO champion Terry Flanagan is undefeated but largely untested. WBA champion Anthony Crolla has looked ordinary at times.
So long as he wins, my top choice as a next opponent for Felix Verdejo would be undefeated IBF champ Rances Barthelemy.