What boxing promoter Bob Arun of Top Rank called an “annual event” is his spectacular boxing event held at Madison Square Garden every June. The card set for the evening of Saturday, June 13, the eve of the National Puerto Rican Parade, is tied in with the parade to honor the beautiful island that is home to so many ancestors of New York residents.
Unlike the boxing shows of the recent past, this one is not headed by Champion Miguel Cotto. Cotto successfully fought last Saturday at Barclays Center. A 22 year-old sensation from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Felix Verdejo (17-0, 13 KOs), is the new favorite of the Puerto Rican fight fans. The lightweight contender, ready for his fifth bout in New York City, will be hoping to capture the WBO Latino Title in a 10 round encounter in the semi-main event against another undefeated lightweight, Ivan “Bam Bam” Najera ((18-0, 8 KOs). Many of Verdejo’s countrymen should be at the arena cheering for him to remain unbeaten.
Both uttered very similar remarks about the upcoming fight in a Thursday afternoon press conference at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, where the bouts will be held. Najera, from San Antonio, Texas of Mexican parentage, spoke confidently, “We are well prepared to remain undefeated. We’re both aggressive fighters. It will be a great fight.” Verdejo said, “I want to give you a great fight. I worked hard for this. I feel blessed for being on this card.”
His positive words describing the event may have stemmed from the fact that nine of the 16 boxers are undefeated.
The headline bout is also between two undefeated boxers, WBA Featherweight Champion Nicholas “The Axe Man” Walters (25-0, 21 KOs) of Jamaica and Miguel “The Scorpion” Marriaga (20-0, 18 KOs) of Cartagena, Colombia. Both also spoke of being fully prepared to make a successful showing in the ring on Saturday. Walters stunned and amused the crowd and the other boxers at the conference by making lengthy comments in Spanish.
The only boxer introduced on Thursday that resides in New York City is George Arias. Arias (3-0, 2 KOs) was born in San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. The 23 year-old currently resides in the Fordham section of the Bronx.
The young boxer, trained by Leon Henderson, had an outstanding amateur boxing career. He trained at Joe DeGuardia’s Morris Park Gym in the Bronx. He was the New York State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Silver Medalist in 2013 and did even better in the following year when he won the Heavyweight Gold Medal. Arias turned pro in the fall of 2014 and fought his first bout in October 2014. After this four round bout, Arias expects to fight two six round bouts before facing more experienced foes.
He captured the attention of those attending the press conference by his friendliness and good humor while speaking without preparation. Henderson gave him the moniker “Gentleman George” because he goes out of his way to smile at and shake hands with as many in the audience as possible before each bout. Arum called him a future heavyweight champ.
The two featured bouts will be televised live on HBO’s “Boxing after Dark” beginning at 10 pm on Saturday.