By Michael Woods
Felix Verdejo stood not more than ten feet away from his Saturday night MSG Theater foe, and as I asked the Puerto Rican young gun queries at an open to press workout at Mendez Gym on 23rd St. in Manhattan, I scanned his face for signs of elevated blood pressure.
Did he clench his teeth, flex his jaw muscles, did his eyes dart toward William Silva and scan him for body language weakness?
Nope; Verdejo is ultra quick with a grin, he has a baby face and mellow amiability which if you didn't know him might have you thinking he was anything but a pro boxer for his vocation.
But that he is. Some say he's special, or will be when he gets to his athletic prime. Now, will we better be able to KNOW this from his 130 pound clash at MSG Theater against the 23-0 (13 KOs) Silva on a card put together by Bob Arum's Top Rank? Likely not; the 28 year old Silva had a sweet amateur record and has gone lossless as a pro, but he isn't being chosen for this match because he's perceived as a pick em opponent. He's a smart boxer, who told me he likes the way Floyd Mayweather avoided eating shots, so we can presume maybe that gives a hint of his fighting style. He told me he is a “smart fighter,” and he a couple times promised Saturday would be a good fight, as opposed to promising a win.
Wait, do you know you are going to win, I probed…
“I'm going to win,” Silva declared of the match to screen on HBO.
The man who grew up in Sao Paolo, who has three brothers, is trained by his father. Dad Alusio fought pro, as a flyweight, and his son has as little body fat as one can hold on an athlete, it looked to me Wednesday.
Him and pop don't spar, he told me, so things work flawlessly in the corner.
The Brazilian, 135-5 as an amateur, took up boxing at age 12, and he dug it. He hadn't seen dad fight in person but was a duck to water.
Today, he fights to make money and gain acclaim and support two daughters, an eight year old and a five month old baby, Gabriella and Raphaella.
The eight year old will watch the fight, he told me. And what will she see? “The decision will be ours!”
MMA is bigger than boxing in his homeland but he'd like to help tip the scale more toward pugilism, he said. “Boxing is not well supported by the government. I'm undefeated but not really widely well known. What Brazil needs is a hero. I want to be that!”