Felix Verdejo capitalised on his main event opportunity with a highlight reel, first round knockout win against the previously unbeaten Will Madera at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on Thursday.
The main event was scheduled to involve former world title challenger Miguel Marriaga, but his fight with Mark John Yap was cancelled at the weigh in, with Yap tipping the scales an astonishing near nine pounds over the agreed weight limit of 128 pounds.
The Top Rank bill went on as planned though, with 2012 Olympian Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs) elevated into main event status, and ‘El Diamante’ certainly didn’t disappoint.
He has flattered to deceive since turning professional, but catapulted himself into the World title mix at Lightweight with a devastating win against Madera (15-1-3, 8 KOs) inside ‘The Bubble.’
The damage was caused towards the end of the opener, with the Puerto Rican landing a perfectly timed right uppercut that wobbled Madera towards the ropes.
The American never truly recovered and after the 27-year-old landed some decent combinations, he went in for the kill.
A beautiful sledgehammer right hand, aided by a short left uppercut, left Madera’s head under the bottom rope, and there was no need for a referee’s count, as the fight was over with a second remaining of the round.
It was just the statement win that Verdejo had been looking for after a series of tentative performances, and he wasted no time in targeting the biggest fish in the Lightweight pond, in three-weight World champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the man that defeated him in the 2012 Olympics.
“Stay ready, because Felix Verdejo is back, I’m ready to fight against the best,” Verdejo told ESPN in his post-fight interview.
“I took my time, I really came here settled. I wanted to measure what he came out with, and how hard he hit.
“Once I figured that out, I did it, I just let my hands go, but always under control and then the knockout came”.
“As for what’s next, Vasiliy Lomachenko is the top guy at lightweight.
“We have unfinished business from when he beat me in the Olympics. That’s the fight I ultimately want.”
It was an impressive performance under new trainer Ismael Salas and a massive step towards world title class for Verdejo. Whether he gets a shot against the Ukrainian great in remains to be seen, but he has certainly put himself in the mix with this win.
It was another short night for rising Heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson who blasted out Hector Perez with less than two minutes passed of the opening round.
A big overhand right did the damage, and “The Real Big Baby” moves to 5-0 with as many knockouts as a result of his quick win.
Martino Jules (10-0, 2 KOs) stayed undefeated with a majority decision win against Aleem Jumakhonov (8-3-2, 4 KOs) over eight rounds at Featherweight.
It was mainly boxer against puncher, but Jules did enough to earn two verdicts of 78-74, with a third judge scoring a 76-76 draw.
There was another majority decision in the four rounder at Lightweight, where Kenny Davis Jr (3-2-1) defeated Eduardo Sanchez (2-3) in a fast moving, fan-friendly fight. Two scores of 38-36 were good enough to trump a third at 37-37.