Unbeaten Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo continued his rise in the lightweight division against journeyman Josenilson Dos Santos last Saturday at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
Verdejo (19-0, 14KO) began the fight by landing a few jabs to the head and body of Dos Santos (27-4, 17KO) and looking to pick his spots to land power shots. Dos Santos was noticeably taller than Verdejo, but the Brazilian was either unwilling or unable to use this to his advantage as Verdejo basically did whatever he wanted to do.
In the 2nd round, Verdejo, confident in his abilities against Dos Santos, stayed patient and waited for an opening. He got it when Dos Santos threw an uppercut from way too far away and countered with a perfect 1-2 combination that put Dos Santos down. Dos Santos rose on unsteady legs and walked back to his corner instead of facing Verdejo, prompting the referee to wave the fight off.
Verdejo has garnered comparisons to Puerto Rican legend Felix Trinidad from the boxing community due to his patient, but aggressive style. He seems to be faster than Trinidad, but I’ll hold the Trinidad comparison until he faces off more quality opposition. Nevertheless, he is a talented young man and it’ll be interesting to see him develop.
On the undercard, former four-weight division champion Nonito Donaire looked to get back into talks among the elite in the 122 Ibs. division by winning impressively against tough but limited Cesar Juarez.
Donaire (36-3, 23KO) started the fight well, landing hard counters on the plodding Juarez (17-4, 13KO) and moving well enough to avoid any return fire from the Mexican fighter.
This pattern continued for the first six rounds as Donaire displayed superior athleticism and boxing ability by countering almost every shot Juarez attempted. He even knocked Juarez down twice in the 4th round to take a commanding lead on the scorecards. The first knockdown was more of a trip, but Donaire landed a right hand before the trip occurred which gave the Filipino star the knockdown. The second knockdown was much cleaner as Donaire landed a thunderous left hook as Juarez was coming in.
Then the 7th round happened.
Whether due to fatigue or a miscaluation on Donaire’s part, the Filipino fighter spent more time running and circling away than punching, which gave Juarez confidence as he began to put more pressure on Donaire and even cornered the former champion against the ropes and unloaded with his shots.
The fight became a grueling affair as Juarez had more success pressuring Donaire, who seemed somewhat discouraged from the fact he hit Juarez with his best shots and yet Juarez was still there fighting. Donaire continued to counter Juarez, but it was less often than when he did it in the first six rounds. This allowed Juarez to not only get back in the fight, but actually win rounds.
With both fighters bleeding, Donaire turned the tide somewhat in the last two rounds as he found the energy to circle away from the ropes and unload on Juarez with hard shots more often, winning him the last two rounds. When the final bell rang, it was clear a Fight of the Year contender had just been created.
Donaire won the fight with scores of 116-110 (twice) and 117-109, but from the way he struggled against Juarez it is apparent that Donaire’s best days are behind him. This victory earned him the vacant WBO title and put him back in the 122 Ibs. picture, but he would be the underdog against most, if not all, of the top dogs in the division.
I scored the bout 115-111 in Donaire’s favor.