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Johnny Bos: Large in Life, A Cult Figure in Death (A TSS Classic by Randy Gordon)

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On a blustery autumn afternoon in October, 1979, Johnny Bos stepped off the elevator into my office at Ring Magazine. He was wearing a full-length white mink coat, large-rimmed sunglasses and a white ski cap. He wore jeans and a Gerry Cooney T-shirt. His coat was open, revealing a baseball-sized boxing glove which hung from one of several chains around his neck. He was unshaven, but his blond mustache stood out.

As he stepped off the elevator, he ran into Bert Sugar and me, who were heading to O’Reilly’s Pub, the birthplace for so many of the classic Ring Magazines Bert and I put out. As Johnny looked at us and as we looked at him, Bert exclaimed, “What the hell are you dressed up as!!??”

Johnny just looked at Bert, in his black Fedora, paisley pants, blue denim shirt, a tie which matched nothing he was wearing plus a long cigar and said, “Look who’s talking…Mr. Fashion Statement himself.” We had a good laugh, then Bert said, “Come with us, we’re working on the next issue. I’ll buy you a drink.” That was around noon when we headed to O’Reilly’s. We didn’t walk out of O’Reilly’s until midnight, but our next magazine was all but put together. Bert bought Johnny more than one drink. He even offered to pay him. Johnny accepted the drinks—each one a rum and Coke. He refused to take the money. He said helping us put together the story ideas for an issue of The Ring—our Ring—was worth it. He was always there for us.

“Today, November 17, 2012, is 26 years I have been straight & sober. I might be the only person who went from being a successful alcoholic to (being) a sober bum.” — Bos

*   *   *

I met Johnny in late 1976, in front of Sunnyside Garden Arena in Sunnyside, Queens, N.Y. We were there to catch a fight card featuring light heavyweight contender Bobby Cassidy against Luis Vinales. Also on the card was a rematch between my friend, Paddy Dolan, and Gerald Odum, who had beaten me eight months earlier in my pro debut.

Johnny and I were introduced by Malcolm “Flash” Gordon, who stood in front of the arena and sold his boxing newsletters, “Tonight’s Boxing Program.”

“You guys will get along great,” said Flash. “You are two of the biggest boxing junkies I know.”

Flash was right. Over the next 20 years, I watched Johnny move from being a gym rat (he loved spending time at Gil Clancy’s Gym on 28th Street in Manhattan) to being one of the most sought after matchmakers and booking agents in the country. In the early 1980’s, while on a trip to a fight card in Atlantic City, I took the 2 ½ hour ride from New York City to Atlantic City with Hall of Fame matchmaker Teddy Brenner. When the talk came to matchmakers, he said, “I want you to watch three young matchmakers. They are going to be three of the best ever.” The names he mentioned were Bruce Trampler, Ron Katz and Johnny Bos. Trampler already has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Katz is on his way there. Hopefully, so is Bos.

October 16, 2012—They took everything away from me, but my name will only get bigger and bigger as time goes on, even after I’m gone. Gottttttttttttttttta Gooooooooooooooooo. With Love, from Bos. Ccccccccyaaaaa!

*   *   *

Johnny, whose given name was Bosdal, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a student of boxing, but little else, and left school before 11th grade. He took a job in a department store, then went to work on the graveyard shift for the U.S. Postal Service. Being up all night probably honed him for his oncoming career as a matchmaker/booking agent, as he did his best work between the hours of 11:00 p.m.-5:00 a.m.

When fledgling boxing managers Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport signed two promising fighters from Long Island, New York—Howard Davis Jr. and Gerry Cooney—in the mid-1970’s, they had the money to make things happen, but not the boxing knowledge. What they lacked in that department they more than made up for by hiring Bos to make matches for Olympic champion Davis and the towering left hook artist from Huntington, L.I. The talents of Davis and Cooney, along with the expert matchmaking of Bos, helped to quickly move each fighter into title contention.

Quickly, other managers and promoters saw what a matchmaking genius Bos was, and he became the busiest matchmaker in the boxing world. In the late 1970’s, at a fight card—where else—Bos met a young matchmaker from White Plains, N.Y., Ron Katz. The two became close friends. Young Katz quickly began learning from Bos, and soon the boxing business had the Boz-Katz matchmaking seal on almost every card in the nation. If Bos-Katz didn’t actually make a match on the card, they gave other matchmakers ideas for matches…gave them phone numbers or had fighters call them.

He and Katz would talk on the phone thru the night—every night. They made matches, got opponents, sparring partners and helped other matchmakers who were in desperate need of assistance. They usually got no money. Occasionally, they got a “Thank You.” They didn’t care. They had each other to talk boxing to.

It was nothing for them to conference-call someone—after midnight. I lost track of how many times my home phone rang after 2:00 a.m. Upon fumbling for the phone, I’d hear the two of them—Heckle & Jeckle—singing, on key, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.” I’d then go into another room and talk boxing with them, for a good hour or two, this, despite the fact I had to be into my office at The Ring in a few hours while Heckle & Jeckle slept the morning away. Thank goodness my boss was Bert Sugar!

“They can try as hard as they want to take the man out of boxing, but they’ll never take the boxing out of the man.”

*   *   *

Johnny loved music, and his tastes ran from the Temps, Four Tops and Marvin Gaye to Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie and Irene Cara (one of his favorite songs was Cara’s 1980’s hit, “Fame.”). He also loved his wearing his chains, his oversized boxing glove, his rings and his bling. Oh, there was also that full-length mink. Johnny loved his white mink, even in the warmer months. It was as common to see Johnny walk into a press conference in late April or early October wearing it as is was to see Don King with his hair pointed to the boxing heavens. Once, before Gerry Cooney fought Jimmy Young in Atlantic City, Jones & Rappaport, known in the industry as the “Wacko Twins,” told Bos he’d have to look presentable and professional at the casino in Atlantic City on the day of the fight, so they bought him a powder blue, three-piece suit.

“They told me there would be executives from CBS there and I would need to wear a suit,” Bos recalled. “I told them I didn’t own a suit and wasn’t gonna’ buy one. And what did I care if executives from CBS were there. They were there to see Cooney, not me.” But after the “Wacko Twins” bought Johnny the suit, he wore it.

“I kinda’ liked the way I looked,” recalled Bos recently. “It brought out my best features.”

Actually, Johnny’s best feature was his personality. Sure, his pimp-like mode of dressing on that 6’4” frame, which always held between 260-300 pounds, drew attention, but his quick wit, along with his deep passion and knowledge of the Sweet Science—both past and present—ingratiated him to everyone he came in contact with. Here was a man who loved what he did.

In a business known for its backstabbing and underhanded business deals, Johnny could be counted on and trusted. If he shook your hand on a deal, you could consider it done. In his decades of building the careers of so many fighters, Johnny gave more of himself than he ever took in return.

Few top fighters of the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s went through their career without being touched in some way by Johnny Bos. Once, he made a match for a rising contender who had stiffed him of a few thousand dollars a year earlier. It was one of the few times Johnny sought revenge. The opponent for the rising contender was a last-second replacement. Bos, who knew that styles make fights, made sure the opponent he chose was anything but the “right” opponent for the rising contender. When the fight was over, the rising contender was a fallen contender and Bos was thrilled.

After the fight, he laughed to me about what he had done.

“You’re bad, Johnny,” I said.

“I’m Johnny Bos, Johnny Bos, baddest dude there ever was!” he said with a roar.

But those moments were few and far between.

He watched with pride as many of the fighters he made matches for, including John “The Beast” Mugabi, John “The Heat” Verderosa, Michael Bentt, Joey Gamache, Tyrone Booze, Tracy Patterson, Jameel McCline, Paulie Malignaggi, Tyrell Biggs, Evander Holyfield, Mark Breland, Meldrick Taylor, Alex Ramos, Johnny Bumphus, Frank Bruno, Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Lloyd Honeyghan—and many more—all went on to major success in the industry.

Hall-of-Fame journalist Michael Katz once said that if he had to choose a person to be the National Commissioner of Boxing, his choice would be Johnny Bos.

To that, Johnny replied, “I could do the job, but I’d hate the politics.”

It was the politics of boxing, the truly dirty side of boxing politics, which broke Johnny’s big heart. After guiding and building the career of lightweight/junior welterweight Joey Gamache, Johnny steered him into a fight on February 26, 2000, against Arturo Gatti in Madison Square Garden. At that time, the New York State Athletic Commission was comprised of political hacks and cronies and run by a convicted felon who should have never been allowed to take control of the state agency.

At the weigh-in, Gatti was allowed to get on the scale and get right off, without the scale actually showing what his weight was. When Bos complained, the inept commissioner gave him a hard time, and told him the weigh-in was official. Gamache weighed 140 pounds. Gatti weighed 140 1/2. The following day, at the unofficial HBO weigh-in, Gamache was still a junior welterweight. Gatti wasn’t. He had ballooned four weight classes. He weighed in at 160 pounds. That night, he crushed Gamache, knocking him out in the second round.

Bos went wild, calling out the commission’s ineptitude on every level. As Gamache recovered in the hospital from the severe head trauma he suffered at the hands of the brutal-punching Gatti, Bos filed a protest on the grounds the weigh-in was handled improperly. Then he filed suit against the New York State Athletic Commission.

With the NYSAC breathing down Johnny’s neck he sought what he thought would be a bright future in the Sunshine State. He settled in Clearwater, Florida, originally telling me, “Lots of people head to Florida to finish out their lives and die. I’m going to Florida to live.”

It never worked out that way for him, especially after a New York court ruled in Gamache’s favor in the lawsuit, finding the NYSAC negligent in their handling of the weigh-in. But then came the blow which struck Big John harder than he had ever been hit before. The court refused to award Gamache any money. Not a penny. They ruled that the NYSAC’s negligence had not determined the outcome of the fight. He retreated to his apartment in Clearwater and stayed there for months.

“Don’t worry if there’s a hell below, because we’re all going to go.” -Curtis Mayfield

*   *   *

Johnny’s spirits were lifted, when, in 2009, he was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. The induction was exactly what Bos needed. In his 58 years, he had been addicted to three things: Cigarettes, alcohol and boxing. Over the years, he was able to completely eliminate alcohol (1986) and cigarettes (a few years later). But he never could rid himself of his addiction to boxing. Many of us know that same feeling. When the call came about his upcoming induction, Bos was elated.

He took to Facebook and proclaimed he was back. Then he met and became friends with Henry Rivalta, the head Boxing Operations for Acquinity Sports, the new boxing promotion powerhouse based out of South Florida. Rivalta made Bos his matchmaker.

Last November 30, I was in Sunrise, Florida, as one of four announcers for the Khabib Allakhverdiev-Joan Guzman fight. Acquinity was the promoter. Sitting in the hotel lobby, waiting for me were two of my favorite boxing people. One was my announcing colleague that night, Ron Borges, who, for years, has been one of the top boxing writers in the world. The other was Acquinity’s matchmaker, Johnny Bos.

Although I had spoken to him quite often on the phone, this was the first time I had seen Johnny in a few years. Both Borges and I didn’t think he looked well. The fact is, he wasn’t.

Recently, he put a photo of a cardiologists’s report done on him in 2000, on Facebook. The report found Bos to have congestive heart failure, brought on by years of heavy smoking and excessive drinking. The doctor said his long term prognosis for Johnny was not encouraging. When Johnny put that doctor’s note on Facebook, he said “I’m still here, so f–k all of you!”

“I spoke to him last week,” said Henry Rivalta. “During our conversation, he said ‘Thank you, Henry. Thank you for everything.’ I don’t know how much longer this old heart can hold out. So thank you for bringing me back. Thank you for everything.’ He knew.”

On Saturday night at around 10:30 p.m., Johnny’s brother, Jeffrey, along with Jeffrey’s girlfriend, Suzanne McBee, found Johnny dead in his apartment.

On so many occasions since his departure from New York, Johnny Bos said to me, “Nobody remembers me. I was once a big name in boxing and now, nobody remembers me.” I assured him that wasn’t true.

Now, as he sits in his white mink at the bar inside the Pearly Gates (sorry, Johnny, you were wrong about where you were heading) with Bert Sugar, Wayne Kelly, Teddy Brenner, Emanuel Steward, Angelo Dundee and other boxing luminaries who graced us, Bos sees the outpouring of love his memory is getting, and knows he hasn’t been forgotten.

As long as boxing lives, he will never be forgotten.

EDITOR’S NOTE; This story first ran on May 15, 2013. For more on the late Johnny Bos, check out Thomas Hauser’s fond remembrance.

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Boxing Odds and Ends: ‘Stitch’ Duran at the Top Rank Gym and More

Arne K. Lang

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Jacob “Stitch” Duran is the most famous cutman in the world. But this past November, when he was working the first of the four Triller shows — the show in Los Angeles anchored by the Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr exhibition – Duran realized for the first time that his renown wasn’t confined to the insular world of combat sports.

“Snoop Dogg came up to me and said, ‘man you’re a legend, may I take a picture with you?’ I was shocked. I had no idea that anyone knew me in that world. It was a memorable moment.”

Duran, who turned 70 this month and looks years younger, has had many memorable moments. The night that he plied his trade in London’s Wembley Stadium before 90,000 screaming fans is forever embedded in his memory. But that adventure was bittersweet. He worked the corner of Wladimir Klitschko, with whom he had a 12-year relationship, and that see-saw fight between Klitschko and Anthony Joshua ended with Klitschko on the receiving end of a barrage of punches, forcing the referee to step in and call off the contest in the 11th round.

Duran grew up in Planada, CA, an overwhelmingly Hispanic community where a third of the population lives below the poverty line. Planada is in the agriculturally fertile San Joaquin Valley. Most of the working adults are employed by the farms or in a food-related industry. Duran’s memoir, “From the Fields to the Garden” (as in Madison Square), written with Zac Robinson, was released in 2011 and spawned a sequel.

If there is ever a third book, one chapter will likely be titled “Life in the Bubble.” Duran and Mike Bazzel, and eventually Floyd Mayweather’s associate Bob Ware, were tabbed to be the house cutmen for all of Top Rank’s so-called Bubble Fights, 22 in all, a series that ran from June 23, 2020 to Feb. 20 of this year from the sterile MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

The cutmen and other essential employees were quarantined on the 12th floor of the hotel, departing only for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for the weigh-in. Bazzel, who has a home in the San Francisco Bay Area, never left the hotel. Duran, who lived 20 minutes away, was able to go home between assignments but the better part of his week was still spent in his 12th-floor “crib.”

It was boxing’s version of the “Shawshank Redemption,” says Stitch, referencing the 1994 prison movie starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. “We were literally in solitary confinement.” But he is thankful that Top Rank COO Brad Jacobs called him and offered him the gig. Duran was one of the few people in boxing who was able to stay busy when things slowed to a crawl.

Duran, an Air Force veteran, came to Las Vegas in 1995. During his early years in the city, he prowled the boxing and MMA gyms, looking for work. Nowadays, he doesn’t have to look for work, it seeks him out, but Duran is still an insatiable gym rat of sorts.

Earlier this week he was at the Top Rank Gym which was bustling with activity. Tyson Fury was there being put through his paces by trainer SugarHill Steward, as was Scotland’s Josh Taylor, who has a big fight upcoming with Jose Ramirez. The winner will be the undisputed 140-pound champion owning all four meaningful belts.

Duran and the Gypsy King are well-acquainted. When Fury hooked up with Steward, the nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, Stitch Duran came along in what was something of a package deal. Their first fight together was Fury’s rematch with Deontay Wilder. Staged at the MGM Grand Garden on Feb. 22, 2020, it was a tour-de-force for the Gypsy King.

“Working with Fury was a seamless transition because I was so familiar with the Kronk way of doing things,” says Duran. The legendary Emanuel Steward handled Wladimir for 17 fights. When Steward died of colon cancer in 2012, the torch was passed to Emanuel’s longtime assistant Johnathan Banks.

One can number Stitch among those who thought that Emanuel Steward had no peer as a boxing coach: “Emanuel’s work with Wladimir in his first fight with Samuel Peter was the best corner work I ever saw. Emanuel’s instructions got him back in the fight.”

Klitschko looked like a cooked goose after Peter knocked him down twice in the fifth round, but the big Ukrainian went on to win a clear-cut unanimous decision.

There was a camera crew at the Top Rank Gym gathering up the final pieces for a Stitch Duran documentary that commenced filming in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It should prove interesting.

Nat Fleischer Award

The Boxing Writers Association of America has named Joe Maxse the 48th recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award. The award, which recognizes Excellence in Boxing Journalism, is voted on by previous honorees.

A Cleveland native, Maxse, 69, covered boxing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1987 to 2013. Cleveland was an important fight town during most of those years. Don King built his empire there before relocating to New York City and eventually Deerfield Beach, Florida.

The Fleischer Award has been presented every year since 1973. The first recipient was Barney Nagler who went on to helm the BWAA from 1984 to 1989. Nagler was then the sports columnist for the Daily Racing Form. He had begun his journalism career with the Bronx Home News and was the author of two boxing books, most notably “James Norris and the Decline of Boxing,” a book that still appears on many lists of the best boxing books of all time.

Former recipients include two members of the TSS family: Bernard Fernandez (1998) and Thomas Hauser (2004). Last year’s winner was Graham Houston, the longtime North American correspondent and sometimes editor for several British boxing publications including the venerable Boxing News.

Maxse will be honored along with other award winners (a two-year supply) at the 95th BWAA awards dinner, the date and site of which have yet to be determined. Hopefully, when Maxse takes the podium, he won’t conclude his speech without tossing in an impression of the late Harry Carey. Maxse’s spot-on impersonation of the iconic baseball announcer endeared him to his peers.

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Canelo vs. BJ Saunders: Predictions and Analyses from the TSS Faculty

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More than 60,000 fight fans are expected to gather at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, on Saturday. The turnout for the fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders represents a turning point in the COVID-19 era. Boxing has been pretty much walled-off to the general public since a sellout crowd of 15,816 witnessed the second encounter between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder on Feb. 20, 2020 in Las Vegas.

Canelo Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) holds the WBC and WBA world titles at 168 pounds. Billy Joe Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) owns the WBO belt. However, the hardware is largely immaterial whenever Canelo steps in the ring as he is widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. In Saunders he is meeting a slick southpaw bidding to become the second member of the Traveling community to hold multiple title belts simultaneously, joining his friend Tyson Fury. The bout headlines a 7-bout card that will air on DAZN in 200+ countries and territories worldwide and on TV Azteca in Mexico.

Whenever a fight of this magnitude comes down the pike, we invite members of our editorial staff to provide a quick analysis of the match and forecast the outcome. Their prognostications appear below with the respondents listed in alphabetical order.

The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA, an honored guest whenever we perform this kind of exercise. Check out more of Rob’s cool illustrations at his web site fight posium.

PICKS and ANALYSIS

No gimme for Canelo here, as Saunders is a southpaw who can box, has a bit of pop in his punch, as well as a knack for making his opponents look not quite as impressive as they normally are. Still, Canelo is at the top of the boxing food chain for a reason. It’s all right for him to win some fights and not be spectacular in doing so. Figure the Mexican icon on scoring a knockdown or two along the way, but he may have to be satisfied with a win on points this time out. – BERNARD FERNANDEZ

I no longer pick against Canelo Alvarez. And certainly not against a boxing basket case like Billy Joe Saunders. There’s a huge difference in the level of maturity between these two fighters and that will be seen in the ring when Canelo becomes the first to corner the fleet-footed Saunders and put him on his back. Canelo KO in 10. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

Canelo by decision. He does everything better than Saunders, who will fight well enough to survive but not win. – THOMAS HAUSER

Billy Joe is formidable. You don’t lock in an Olympic berth at age 18 without natural talent. You don’t run circles around a big puncher like David Lemieux without a high ring IQ. But Saunders, despite his undefeated record, has been inconsistent. Canelo, as Kevin Iole noted in a recent column, doesn’t do one thing great, but he does everything well. How does one formulate a smart game plan for a boxer with no flaws to exploit? Canelo UD. – ARNE LANG

Much has been made by Saunders’ camp this week about the size of the ring that will be used in the fight. While it seems strange and even unruly that there can be such vast disparities in how large the boxing ring is or how spongy the mat can be for any professional fight card in our sport, the truth of the matter is that Saunders probably doesn’t have much hope in beating Alvarez no matter how those other factors play out. They could fight on a basketball court, and I’d still pick Alvarez. The best the cagey UK fighter will be able to muster is trying to go the distance with the Mexican. Callum Smith pulled it off back in December, but Saunders won’t quite get there. CANELO via 9th-round stoppage. – KELSEY McCARSON

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would have favoured Saunders to beat Canelo and stylistically I still feel Saunders holds all the aces. Canelo’s improvements in the last 30 months have astonished, though. He has found a meaningful fourth and fifth punch for his combinations and his strength, for whatever reason, is prestigious at whatever weight he fights. Saunders, something of a persona-non-grata here in his home country after a series of public relations disasters, is very much a man out of time.  Canelo, bodyshots, between the eighth and the tenth. – MATT McGRAIN

There is a case to be made that Canelo Alvarez has not faced a pure boxer on the level of Billy Joe Saunders since his do-si-do with Erislandy Lara in 2014, in a fight that still has some screaming robbery (Alvarez won by split decision). Of course, that was nearly seven years ago, back when Alvarez was still trading on his telenovela bonafides. Since then, he has gone on to distinguish himself as arguably the best boxer in the sport today. The same cannot be said for the erratic and self-sabotaging Saunders, who has squandered his impressive showing against David Lemieux in 2017 with consecutive lackluster outings against mostly middling opposition. The southpaw will find ways to frustrate Alvarez at times, to be sure, but expect Alvarez to slow down the jittery motions of the Brit by punishing him to the body en route to a mostly clear win on the cards. Canelo by majority decision. – SEAN NAM

I see a feeling-out type fight in the first two rounds and then Canelo begins the stalk. Saunders will be more elusive and more savvy than most of Canelo’s opponents, occasionally getting in some sharp counters. However, he will begin to tire late from an accumulation of Canelo’s body work and from backing up. This will allow the Mexican to increase the tempo looking for a way to close the show. The Traveler will survive. But Canelo will win with a dominating UD. – TED SARES

Two names come to mind for me when deciding how this fight will play out. First, Erislandy Lara, who I saw outbox but not outfight Alvarez. Second is Alexander Povetkin, whose horrible performance against Dillian Whyte was reportedly due to coronavirus residue, which Alvarez also claims to have been afflicted by. Can Saunders, another left-hander with a bit more of a reach advantage than Lara, take advantage of a possibly weakened Canelo? Don’t bet on it unless Cinco de Mayo weekend gets cancelled and nobody from Texas or Mexico shows up for the fight. Saunders seems capable of making it interesting, but Alvarez wins by wide decision or late TKO.  – PHIL WOOLEVER

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A Heinous Crime Will Likely Land Felix Verdejo in Prison for the Rest of His Life

Arne K. Lang

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“Felix has a sparkling personality, a flashy fighting style, and he’s good. He’s also f-a-s-t.” The quote is from Thomas Hauser who wrote those words in June of 2015 after Verdejo improved his record to 18-0 with a near-shutout of fellow unbeaten Ivan Nejara on an HBO card from the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

At this juncture it appeared that Verdejo, a former Olympian, was destined to become the next icon of Puerto Rican fight fans, the heir-apparent to Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto.

Today, news stories about Verdejo make no reference to his sparkling personality. It’s an attribute inconsistent with the portrait of a monster.

This past Saturday, as hardcore fight fans were glued to the telecast of a show in Manchester, England, it came to light that authorities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had found the body of a young woman who had been reported missing after failing to turn up at her job at a dog grooming salon on Thursday morning, that the decedent was plainly the victim of foul play, that Verdejo was the primary suspect in her murder, and that he wasn’t cooperating with the authorities.

When the corpse of the missing woman was fished from a lagoon, her body was reportedly so mangled that forensic examiners had to consult dental records to confirm that the decedent was indeed Keishla Marlen Rodriguez Ortiz, the 27-year-old woman they were looking for. The boxer and Ms. Rodriguez had reportedly known each other since middle school. According to Rodriguez’s family members, she was pregnant with Verdejo’s child and the boxer, who was married with a 2-year-old daughter, wasn’t happy about it.

Keishla

Keishla Rodriguez

With each new detail, the story became more sordid.

It is alleged that the victim was thrown off a bridge after being punched in the face and injected with a syringe filled with an unidentified substance. Verdejo and an accomplice – who hasn’t been charged and is identified only as a witness – then tied her hands and feet with wire and weighed the body down with a cinderblock before tossing it into the water. When the body was slow to sink, Verdejo allegedly fired a bullet at it. A shell casing was found on the bridge and the authorities have corroborating evidence from toll booth cameras.

As first reported by veteran boxing writer Jake Donovan, the boxer surrendered to FBI agents yesterday evening (Sunday). He appeared this morning via zoom before federal magistrate Camille Velez Rive who ordered him returned to prison and held without bail.

Many of the headlines in the tabloids say that Verdejo is facing the death penalty. That’s technically true. The three crimes for which he has been charged — carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and intentionally killing an unborn child – are federal crimes. As a commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico is subject to U.S. federal laws. However, Puerto Rico abolished capitol punishment in 1929. The country hasn’t executed anyone since 1927 when a man named Pascual Ramos was hanged for killing his boss.

It’s doubtful that prosecutors would pursue the death penalty unless the trial were moved to the mainland. However, domestic violence has become a hot-button issue in Puerto Rico and the national mood toward crimes of this nature is trending toward harsher retribution. Yesterday, according to the Daily Mail, hundreds of people, mostly women, including Rodriguez’s sister, gathered at the bridge that spans the lagoon to pay their respects and demand justice for the victims of domestic violence.

Felix Verdejo turned pro  at age 19 after representing Puerto Rico in the 2012 London Olympics. He rose to #1 in the WBO lightweight rankings after defeating Oliver Flores in February of 2017, but was demoted for inactivity. There were extenuating circumstances including fights that fell out and a 6-day stay in a hospital following a motorcycle accident.

He returned to the ring after a 13 ½ month absence and suffered his first pro defeat. An unheralded Mexican, Antonio Lozada, stopped him in the final round, the 10th. Verdejo was ahead on two of the scorecards through the nine completed rounds. There were 23 seconds remaining in the contest when the bout was stopped.

Verdejo’s most recent fight came in December of last year. He was stopped in the ninth round by Masayoshi Nakatani at the MGM Bubble in Las Vegas, reducing his pro record to 27-2. As happened against Lozada, Verdejo faded late, squandering a big lead.

Verdejo photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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