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Felix Verdejo: “My wish is to make my country proud”

(Photo © Quique Aparicio)
(Photo © Quique Aparicio)


Heading into the Olympics, Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo was one of its most highly-touted fighters and though failing to win a medal, the 19-year-old lost little of his lustre. Having won his two opening bouts, he met a certain Vasyl Lomachenko. The Ukrainian previously won gold at the 2008 Olympics as well as a slew of other accolades and was universally considered the best pound-for-pound amateur boxer in the world. Though Verdejo lost a 14-9 decision, he did so in a way that suggested the plaudits before the tournament meant something. Several of the leading promotional entities are thought to be looking to add him to their rosters and a move to the pros seems imminent. Many have high expectations of him adding his name to the throngs of champions from the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico.
 
Anson Wainwright - You took part in the 2012 Olympics in London. Can you tell us about the experience of being overseas and also competing in such a huge event?

Felix Verdejo - The Olympics in London were a great experience for me. I had the honour by the grace of God to represent my country, my people and show the world that Puerto Rico is on the map.
 
AW - You lost in the quarterfinals of the Olympics to eventual winner Vasyl Lomachenko. What are your thoughts on that fight?
 
FV - Looking back into that fight, I’m not really pleased with my performance because after seeing the fight, I saw some of the mistakes I made but I give Vasyl all the credit and respect he deserves. He is a very good fighter and I wish him the best and hope we can compete again in the future.
 
AW - Before the Lomachenko fight, you won two bouts. What are your thoughts on those fights?
 
FV - The fights I won in London were against two good fighters and I felt a lot stronger in those fights.
 
AW - Tell us about your amateur career. What tournaments/titles have you won? What is your amateur record?
 
FV - I won gold in a couple of continental Junior Championships, 2008 Golden Belt in Ecuador and a 2009 Pan American Junior Championship in the Dominican Republic. As an adult, I won gold in the 2010 International Olympic Cup, silver in the 2010 Cheo Aponte International Tournament, the 2011 Puerto Rico National Championship, silver in the Pan Am Games classificatory event in Venezuela [tied 6-6 against Cuban world champ Lazaro Alvarez] at 123 pounds. In 2012, I won the Puerto Rico National Championship at 132 pounds and gold in the Olympic classifier in Brazil. My amateur record is 106-17.
 
AW - Many fans have high hopes for you in the future. What are your plans now? Do you think you will go pro? Who are you looking at signing with?
 
FV - I concentrate myself in my training regime and let my trainer/manager, Ricky Marquez, deal with all promoters’ offers, compare them and decide wish one is the best for us. My wish is to become a pro fighter and make my country proud of my accomplishments. I don’t really have a favourite company to work with. I just want one a company who can put me to fight the best fighters.
 
AW - The amateur game is obviously very different from the pros. What are your strengths as a fighter and what areas do you think you’ll need to improve as you progress?
 
FV - I know it’s a different game and I can’t wait to have those small gloves on my hands and develop myself as a fighter. My strengths are my power and my attitude towards working hard. We have to work on many areas and I’m willing to do just that.
 
AW - Can you tell us about your younger days and what it was like growing up in Puerto Rico?
 
FV - I was a normal, hyper kid in the projects. I was raised by my mom with two brothers and two sisters. I’m the youngest of all and I come from a place called Gladiolas in the middle of San Juan. Just last year, the government decided to demolish the buildings and I was very sad because of that. I grew up there playing every sport you can imagine and you had to be tough to survive.
 
AW - How did you first become interested in boxing?
 
FV - When I was nine years old, I went with my godfather, Angel Rivera, to the boxing gym. He was taking his son, Jean, to the Polideportivo Rebekah Colberg. There I met Ricky, my trainer, and had my first couple of fights but since I was playing baseball, a sport I love and I was a very good pitcher and also played basketball and was part of the dancing groups in the community, I wasn’t really serious about boxing until I was about 13. I broke my ankle with some roller sneakers and the doctors had to put some screws in my ankle and in the months I was recovering from the operation, I decided to go back to boxing for real and I’ve been training and fighting ever since.
 
AW - Tell us about yourself as a person away from boxing. What do you enjoy doing with your spare time?
 
FV - I’m a Christian and love to go to church and I put God in front of everything I do in my life and appreciate all He’s done for me. I also enjoy to go fishing with friends, snorkelling with my trainer, mountain biking, go shopping, to the movies - everything young people do.
 
AW - What are your future goals?
 
FV - To become a better person, a role model world champion for the kids like [Felix] “Tito” Trinidad was for me and be recognized as one of the best.
 
AW - Who was your boxing hero growing up? Who do you like to watch today?
 
FV - My hero was Felix “Tito” Trinidad and now I’m a huge fan of Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
 
AW - In closing, do you have a message for the boxing world?
 
FV - To always expect my respect and my best effort to give them a good show and to please watch my development as a fighter and be witnesses of how I become a contender and, hopefully, a champion.
 
Questions and or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright. Anson is also a member of The Ring magazine’s ratings panel.
 


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