Boxing: Morilla’s Report Card – The “Diamond” Verdejo Shines On In Puerto Rico

FOTOS:  Hector Santos/ Promociones Miguel Cotto

Our resident boxing writer Diego Morilla serves up a full weekend wrap-up of the most relevant boxing events in the worldwide scene. Every fight that matters is right here, in one place, and at one click away. Follow Morilla on Twitter at @MorillaBoxing

Tekirdag, Turkey, March 23

Tony Thompson SD 12 Odlanier Solis, heavyweights

It doesn’t take too much imagination of information to figure out what’s going on with the heavyweight division these days. This fight paints a perfect picture of this “transition period” (to put it mildly) in boxing’s most storied weight class. Thompson (39-4, 26 KO) is a 42 year-old contender who lost his two only title bouts, and Solis (20-2, 13 KO) is a 33 year-old former Olympic gold medalist for Cuba who lasted barely a round in his only championship fight. And yet, they failed to produce a solid performance in spite of their credentials, their experience and everything that is a stake in their careers. Thompson was stronger and more agile in spite of being almost 10 years older than his opponent, and landed more often, but every time Solis stepped on the gas pedal he made Thompson look vulnerable. Still, the Cuban fighter failed to put the pressure in the right spots, as Thompson gained more steam as the fight progressed. When Solis finally tried to make a statement, the fight had finally ran out of rounds, and in the end Thompson grabbed the decision with scorecards of 115-114 and 115-113, while the other one went to Solis for 116-112. Not a bad scrap, but still light-years away from heavyweight championship territory.

The winner goes on to: Thompson may get lucky in his third try at a world title, but it will take much more than luck for Solis to wear a belt around his increasingly soft and wide waistline. Best of luck to both of them in trying, though.

 Panama City, Panama, March 23

Anselmo Moreno UD 12 Javier Chacon, WBA bantamweight title

A huge difference in size turned into a determining factor in this title fight in which perennial WBA titlist “Chemito” Moreno (35-2-1, 12 KO) used his reach advantage to keep Argentina’s Chacon (19-2, 4 KO) at bay and to jab his way to an entertaining decision. A less mobile and less talented version of his older brother and former world champion Pablo Chacón, the visitor had the tools and the will to go after a difficult and awkward southpaw in Moreno, who felt the power of Chacon’s hands in more than one occasion. In the end, Moreno’s far superior experience and skill won him the night by scores of 118-108, 117-108 and 117.5-109.5 (yep, the half point is used in Panama as well).

The winner goes on to: Moreno is exactly the kind of fighter nobody wants to fight: talented, strong, skilled and yet unattractive, with no following of his own. But he will eventually return to the States for another title defense.

Caguas, Puerto Rico, March 23

Jorge Melendez UD 10 Richard Gutierrez, junior middleweights

Felix Verdejo TKO 3 Juan Santiago, lightweights

The search for the next Puerto Rican boxing star is on, and getting stronger every day. This card featured two up-and-comers in this race. In the main event, power puncher Melendez (28-3-1, 26 KO) had to settle for a unanimous nod against a solid veteran in Gutierrez (27-14-1, 17 KO), who looked on the verge of disaster when he visited the canvas in round one, but managed to stay on his feet for the rest of a shutout that went to Melendez by scores of 98-91 and 97-92 (twice). In the previous fight, unbeaten former Olympian Verdejo (11-0, 8 KO) took a decisive step towards championship territory with a bone-chilling stoppage in the third round against journeyman Santiago (14-12-1, 8 KO). After a sustained attack in the first two rounds, Verdejo stepped on the gas and dropped Santiago on his back with a textbook straight right hand, and that was all she wrote. A terrific victory for a fighter many people believe will become the next Tito Trinidad.

The winners go on to: Verdejo is well on his way to becoming a main-event attraction in the next few months as he is being managed very wisely by Top Rank, and Melendez could join him in one of his undercards as well.

Los Mochis, Mexico, March 23

Humberto Soto UD 10 Juan Carlos Abreu, junior welterweights

Sloppy affair, indeed. Soto (63-8-2, 35 KO), a solid and durable former multiple division champ who can outsmart and outwork any fighter in his division on a good night, had his hands full with Abreu (16-1, 15 KO), a previously unbeaten Dominican promise who had two points taken from scorecard for improper behavior, which is a mild way to describe his entire performance. Abreu tried to clinch, rabbit-punch, low-blow and elbow his way to a victory that clearly was not going to happen as Soto (a couple of years removed from his prime) was simply too much fighter for him to handle. A visit to the canvas in round six put the scorecards in unreachable territory for Abreu, who in spite of winning a few rounds here and there managed to throw it all away with is illegal tactics. Soto won a unanimous decision and the right to continue his unlikely comeback to the top after so many years of tough wars. In this same card, former titlist Hugo Ruiz (34-2, 30 KO) annihilated Ramon Maas (26-4, 15 KO) in the first round with a TKO in a super bantamweight matchup.

The winner goes on to: The 140 lb division is brimming with talent, and Soto still has tons of it, but the younger generation is taking over and Soto’s physique is way too damaged to withstand the power of today’s top contenders.

Monterrey, Mexico, March 23

Vivian Harris MD 10 Jorge Paez Jr. vs., welterweights

A mild upset here. Former titlist Harris (32-9-2, 19 KO) made the most of his late-replacement status when he grabbed a ten-round decision over the son of a legend in “Maromerito” Paez Jr. (37-5-1, 22 KO) with a skilled and savvy performance. Harris never fell in Paez’s game, staying in the mid range where he is most comfortable and letting his superior boxing skills carry the fight. Paez, true to the family tradition, wanted to put on a show for his fans, but fell short along the way when his aggressive but plodding style was no match for Harris’s speed and skill as he took home the victory by scores of 96-94 (twice) and another one tied at 95-95. Things start to look up for Harris, who is now riding a three-fight winning streak.

The winner goes on to: The 147 lb division is home to boxing’s elite in these days, and Harris can get his name in the mix once again if he continues looking good.

Francisco Rodriguez TKO 10 Merlito Sabillo, WBO strawweight title

A bigger upset took place in the co-main event of the night, as local hero “Chigua” Rodriguez (14-2, 10 KO) gave his best performance yet against a super tough, previously unbeaten lefty in Sabillo (23-1-1, 12 KO). A native of the Philippines and having a style very similar to that of his compatriot Manny Pacquiao, Sabillo held his own in this challenge through the first eight rounds, scoring repeatedly off the ropes and standing his ground on the many ferocious exchanges that happened throughout the bout, especially in a terrific first round that set the mood for the rest of the bout. But entering the last stretch, he was visibly losing strength and power, and both his corner and the referee started watching his development more closely. After a terrific series of left hooks on the ropes, Sabillo lost steam rapidly and a few seconds later the referee Eddie Claudio stepped in to stop the bout at the 1:50 mark just as the corner was stepping in to stop it as well. Big win for a young champion who could become one of the fighters to watch in the lower weights in the near future.

The winner goes on to: With a style that’s all about pressure and power, Rodriguez could become one of Mexico’s most interesting fighters in the lower divisions.  

Sheffield, England, March 23

Kid Galahad UD12 Sergio Prado, European super bantamweight title

Galahad (16-0, 8 KO) is earning a strong reputation as an entertaining fighter with a bright future, and this time he continued his path towards stardom with a solid performance against Spain’s Prado (9-4-1, 3 KO), a tough muchacho that was nonetheless no match for Galahad’s speed and accuracy as he dropped a decision by ample scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 120-108.

The winner goes on to: The division features a lot of local British talent, and Galahad could be headed to a big fight for neighborhood bragging rights anytime soon.

Junior Witter UD 6 Max Maxwell, junior middleweights

If this is what it takes for Witter to snap out of a losing streak, so be it. But in my card, a 6-rounder against one of the losingest fighters out there is no way to gauge a former world champ’s chances of future success. Predictably, Witter (42-7-2, 22 KO) simple breezed past Maxwell (16-41-3, 3 KO), a fighter whose record holds all the information we need to know about him. The 60-54 scorecard was a mere afterthought. In justice, we must say that both fighters were attempting to end a losing streak, but Witter had only 2 losses coming into this fight, and Maxwell had 29. Sometimes, numbers do tell the whole story, unfortunately.

The winner goes on to: A bit overblown as a junior middleweight, Witter will need a huge effort and a drop in weight if he wants to continue his career with any chances of significant success.

The winner goes on to:

Ponce, Puerto Rico, March 23

Jose Pedraza UD 12 Alberto Garza, junior lightweights

If you’re Puerto Rican, and you count third-rate organizations as valid, then this may be the good news you were waiting for. If not, I guess the wait for the Next Big Thing in Puerto Rican boxing will take a little bit longer. In any case, you still have reason to rejoice, as a solid KO artist in “Sniper” Pedraza (16-0, 10 KO) had a great night as he steamrolled over a willing but limited Garza (26-7-1, 21 KO) to claim the International Boxing Organization super featherweight title by scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111. Pedraza looked solid as usual, landing at will from his southpaw stance and making great use of his privileged broad-shouldered physique and his long reach. Still, the search for the next champion that will capture the imagination of this boxing-crazy island-nation will continue for a while, as the IBO is not exactly the most respectable institution in a pool of ever-growing “alphabet soup” organizations and Pedraza is not exactly the next Wilfredo Gomez (although he has every chance to become that, and more), but it’s a start. And a promising one, indeed.

The winner goes on to: The “Sniper” will need a much sharper eyesight and a much bigger gun if he wants to launch an assault on the talent-deep 130 lb division and beyond, but he has the talent and the power to aspire to that and much more.  

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