The case of the once so promising Felix Verdejo is a deeply shocking one, writes Matt Christie
HUNDREDS of people gathered on a bridge in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday morning and demanded justice. Beneath them was the lagoon where the body of 27-year-old Keishla Rodriguez had been discovered the day before. It is alleged she was pregnant with boxer Felix Verdejo’s child.
The lightweight, a star of the 2012 Olympics and not so long ago regarded as the best prospect in the sport, is now in custody, charged with kidnapping, carjacking resulting in the death of Rodriguez and intentionally killing an unborn child. He could face the death penalty if he is found guilty.
This story is shocking in the extreme. One thinks of Edwin Valero, killing his wife and then himself. The career of Verdejo, 29, did not reach the heights of Valero’s but he is well-known to boxing fans. He last fought in December, losing in nine rounds to Masayoki Nakatani to leave his ring record at 27-2 (17).
The FBI filed evidence that accuses Verdejo of punching Rodriguez in the face and injecting her with a syringe. It’s alleged he then used wire to bound her feet and arms, attached a heavy block to her, pushed her off the bridge and fired shots at her body in the water.
She was reported missing after she failed to show up for work on Friday morning (April 30). Her body was found in the lagoon and then identified via dental records.
Rodriguez’s mother, Keila Ortiz, told reporters in Puerto Rico that Verdejo began threatening her daughter after being told he was pregnant with his baby. Verdejo is married with a young child. It has been reported that he has been in an on-off relationship with Rodriguez since they were at school together.
The boxer handed himself into police on Sunday evening but remained unresponsive when the charges were read out to him. He is now imprisoned, without bail. The whole case is sickening.
The death of Rodriguez comes 14 months after Gervonta Davis was filmed at a charity baseball game choking the mother of his child. Though the American’s initial reaction was to say, ‘I never once hit her’, footage from CCTV of him doing just that, after dragging her away from the glare of the public arena, was given to authorities.
Last month, Showtime announced that Davis will fight in a pay-per-view event against Mario Barrios on June 26 even though investigations continue. New information regarding the victim’s hearing being affected by the assault resulted in a plea bargain being rejected. Davis’ manager is Floyd Mayweather Jnr. In 2012 he was allowed to take part in a lucrative Miguel Cotto showdown before heading into jail for domestic battery. His career didn’t so much as pause.
This weekend Billy Joe Saunders fights – in Las Vegas, against Canelo Alvarez no less – for the second time since posting an instructional video during lockdown about hitting women. His claims that it was all a joke are likely true and any comparison to Verdejo wide of the mark. Even so, bar a fine from the British Boxing Board of Control, Saunders carries on regardless while the implications of the domestic violence he championed grow ever more stark.
One hopes there is justice for Rodriguez and her family.
SUNNY EDWARDS might one day be a household name. The cheeky chappie from Croydon turned in a masterclass, the best showing by a British boxer in the lockdown era, on Friday night to take the IBF flyweight title from established belt-holder, Moruti Mthalane. Edwards, who displayed maturity beyond his 25 years, lacks the firepower of Naseem Hamed but he can draw attention to the lower weight classes with his charisma and skill. The options for him down at flyweight, and super-fly, are mouth-watering. When the crowds return, nobody deserves louder applause than Edwards.
WE really hope that, by the time you read this, the heavyweight showdown between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury has finally been confirmed. Last week, Eddie Hearn insisted he remained ‘100 per confident’ it would happen, Bob Arum said the opposite and Frank Warren was somewhere in-between. Should the parties ever agree, and we’re led to believe they’re about to, one can already imagine the fun and games that will occur in the build up.