This Saturday, for the 3rd straight week, New York will be at the center stage of boxing as two of the most upcoming potential superstar fighters will be featured from The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
In the main event, presented by HBO’s Boxing After Dark, Nicolas “Axe Man” Walters will be stepping into the ring against Miguel “The Scorpion” Marriaga for Walters’s WBA Super World featherweight title, and in the co-feature, Felix Verdejo will be squaring off against Ivan Najera.
Nicolas Walters is already considered the #1 featherweight in the world. He’ll be stepping into the ring with an unblemished record of 25-0 with 21 KO’s. He has a good win over Vic Darchinyan, but his big fight that helped his rise to the top of the division was his destruction of Nonito Donaire in his last fight in October at Stubhub.
The 29-year-old from Jamaica will try to not only put another notch on his belt, but showcase his talents for what is likely to be a big showdown between himself and Vasyl Lomachenko later in the fall.
The opponent of Walters will be Miguel Marriaga, the Colombian-born power puncher steps into the ring with a record of 20-0 with 18 KO’s.
Even though he is a heavy underdog in this fight, he has not tasted defeat in his pro career and with his pop, anything is possible.
Marriaga thus far has not faced any significant opponents, so this will be a huge step up in class, but as we’ve seen before in boxing, it only takes one or two wins from going from a “nobody” to the top of the heap, you can take Walters himself as an example of that.
Although as I said anything can happen, I don’t expect that to happen in this one. Walters seems focused and for the few people who don’t believe he is the real deal, he would love to prove it against Lomachenko.
To get to that fight, he has to get through this one and get through it fairly impressively. Because of this extra motivation, I expect Walters to attack early and end this early, so my prediction is Walters by fourth-round stoppage.
The other big headliner and the likely crowd favorite will be Felix Verdejo.
The Puerto Rican-born, the 22-year-old phenom has an undefeated record of 17-0, with 13 KO’s.
He has not been tested as of yet, but anyone that has seen him has said he is not only the real deal, but that he is the future of Puerto Rican boxing. He’s a tall, long fighter that has pop and already has a huge fan backing, as anyone who has seen his promo gathering can attest to.
Verdejo’s opponent will be, the also young, 22-year-old Ivan Najera. The young man from San Antonio, Texas, also has an unblemished record of 16-0 with 8 KO’s.
He is a tough fighter that is sure to try his hardest against the heavy favorite, Verdejo. He also has never faced anything of significance and will try to shock the world in front of what will look like a Lion’s Den to him. It’s one of those chances that once in a while, you get a chance to change the entire game plan of boxing, but can Najera do it?
In this fight, Verdejo has the size, the power, and the experience advantage over Najera. Since Najera isn’t known as a power guy, I can’t even see him catching Verdejo for a shocking KO victory.
This would truly be a surprise for Najera to pull it off and because of that, I’m going with Verdejo by fifth-round stoppage.
In front of what will be a raucous crowd, a day before the Puerto Rican Day parade, Felix Verdejo will likely put on a show similar to what his fellow countryman, Miguel Cotto did last week.
These are two fights that involve young rising stars in the sport. In almost every fight, fans look for “The Next One”.
Well, in this even,t you may have two “Next Ones”. Both Nicolas Walters and Felix Verdejo have the respect, interest, and talent that a star needs. If you have the time, I suggest watching what could be a preview of the next step for the sport of boxing. If you want to get a casual fan into watching a great atmosphere and likely two stoppages, tell them to sit back and enjoy these fights.