Undefeated featherweight champion Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters of Jamaica, and Puerto Rican lightweight contender Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo will headline in New York during Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Both will be facing undefeated opponents. Walters will defend his title against Miguel “The Scorpion” Marriaga of Colombia. Verdejo, in his live HBO debut, will face Ivan “Bam Bam” Najera, of San Antonio, TX. Both fights will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
The four gladiators boast a perfect combined record of 78-0 (60 KOs), which includes a victory by knockout ratio of 77%.
“Headlining at Madison Square Garden is every fighter’s dream but to do it on HBO is a tremendous honor,” said Walters. “I have unfinished business with Miguel Marriaga. He kept me out of the 2008 Olympics when he beat me in the Americas Olympic Qualifier and I am ready to pay him back. I am going to chop him with the axe.”
“I am happy to be fighting at the legendary Madison Square Garden,” said Marriaga. “I was born to be world champion and come June 13 I will be victorious. I would like to thank All Star Boxing, Top Rank and the WBA for the opportunity.”
“I am very excited to be fighting in New York once again. The New York area fans have been great and always make me feel like I am home,” said Verdejo. “I know that the fight against Ivan Najera will not be easy. I will prepare myself to the maximum and sacrifice everything in the gym so that on fight night I will be at my best and bring the belt back to Puerto Rico. I am very thankful to Top Rank for giving me these types of opportunities.”
“Verdejo is fast, strong and skilled but he hasn’t fought anyone like me,” said Najera. “This is a big fight and I know it. We are going to train in the high altitude of the mountains near Mexico City. We plan to do a lot of running and conditioning work to get set for this fight at Madison Square Garden, the home of champions. My parents are from Mexico and I feel good about training in Mexico City for the biggest fight of my career. Believe me, I am a whole lot better than all of those Verdejo has already faced in the ring. This is a real fight and I am thrilled that it will be in front of the fans at Madison Square Garden.”
“Only a select few fighters are worthy of headlining at the ‘Mecca Of Boxing’ and Top Rank is proud to present two of them on June 13,” said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. “The mighty Nicholas Walters, who has yet to have a world title fight go to the scorecards, and Felix Verdejo, Puerto Rico’s next big thing and the lineal successor in talent and popularity to his mentor Felix Trinidad, are the perfect boxing complement to Puerto Rican Day Parade Weekend — a partnership we innovated in 2005 and have developed into a highly-anticipated annual event.”
“On June 13, fans who love knockouts should cancel their Saturday night out and plan to watch HBO,” said Peter Nelson, Vice President of programming, HBO Sports. “Combined, Nicholas Walters and Miguel Marriaga have knocked out 87% of their opposition, and now they’ll face each other at Madison Square Garden’s Theater for the featherweight title. In addition, our co-feature spotlights the charismatic Puerto Rican sensation Felix Verdejo against game Mexican-American Ivan Najera in a clash of undefeated prospects.”
Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), from Montego Bay, Jamaica, has won 11 of his last 12 fight by stoppage. He captured the vacant WBA featherweight title on December 12, 2012, knocking out Daulis Presscott (26-1, 19 KOs) in the seventh round. He has successfully defended the title three times — all by knockout — stopping Alberto Garza, former two-division world champion Vic Darchinyan and 2012 Fighter of the Year and former four-division world champion Nonito Donaire in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, respectively. A former amateur standout who collected gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games Qualifier III and the 2005 and 2007 Caribbean Championships, Walters is known for his expert boxing skills and movement and two-fisted punching power that are at a caliber of a much higher weight class.
Marriaga (20-0, 18 KOs), from Arjona, Colombia, enters this fight having won 12 of his previous 13 fights by way of knockout with 14 of his 18 knockouts coming in four rounds or less. Fighting mainly in Colombia and Mexico, Marriaga’s sole U.S. bout was last October in Santa Monica, a sixth-round knockout of Christopher Martin in a fight that televised nationally via ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. He is current;y world-rated No. 9 by the World Boxing Council (WBC). This will be the second time he has faced Walters. Marriaga defeated Walters in a 2008 Olympic qualifier.
Verdejo (17-0, 13 KOs), from San Juan, Puerto Rico, ended 2014 as a consensus “Prospect of the Year,” and enters 2015 as a contender to be reckoned with. He returns to the ring having won seven of his last eight fights inside the distance, including his most recent victory, a fifth round knockout of Marco Lopez, on April, 25, for the vacant WBO Latino lightweight title. Already world-rated No. 3 by the WBA, Verdejo, 21, continues to develop into a major gate attraction, producing standing room only crowds every time he fights. A former amateur standout who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 Olympics, Verdejo has been mentored by Puerto Rican boxing icon and Hall of Fame inductee Felix Trinidad.
Najera (16-0, 8 KOs), from San Antonio, TX, is known for his crowd-pleasing aggressive style of fighting and good punching power. Texas boxing fans have been flocking to his fights because he delivers all-action performances. Najera made his national television debut on February 7, winning a unanimous decision over veteran Robbie Cannon in Najera’s toughest professional fight to date.