SAN DIEGO, June 10, 2016 – New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade takes place on Sunday, and in what has become a weekend tradition, Puerto Rican boxers fight for glory on Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. HBO’s Boxing After Dark televises the featured bouts starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The main event presents a significant challenge for WBO junior lightweight champion Roman “Rocky” Martinez (29-2-3, 17 KOs), who will face Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine (5-1, 3 KOs), a two time Olympic gold medalist with just a single loss in 397 amateur fights whose amateur success is translating well into the professional ranks. In just his seventh fight, Lomachenko has the opportunity to set a record for becoming a two division champion in the fewest number of bouts with a win on Saturday.
Lomachenko is coming off a TKO win near the end of his bout with Romula Koasicha of Mexico (25-5-0, 15 KOs). Lomachenko is a machine in the ring. Koasicha could not land a significant punch. “Loma” looked like a cat playing with a toy, landing a mind-blowing 64 percent of his power punches and Koasicha a miserly 16 percent.
Martinez is coming off a disputed draw against Orlando “Siri” Salido of Mexico last September. Most observers including this columnist believe Salido won. Salido fought to another draw last Saturday in the Fight of the Year so far for 2016 against Francisco Vargas of Mexico. Martinez has got to look much sharper against Lomachenko, or he will disappoint his Puerto Rican fans leading into Sunday’s festivities.
Lomachenko isn’t the most explosive boxer in the ring, but he is dominant in every way that matters, and every way that gives a boxer a long and successful career. Martinez is a three time champion, skilled, steady and game. With these credentials Martinez is the underdog; Lomachenko is this good. The Ukrainian improves his skillset every single fight. Forget the meager professional numbers, they aren’t indicative of Lomachenko’s talent.
Siri Salido will be ringside for this bout and watching with interest. He’d like a rematch with the winner of this fight. Salido is the one loss on Lomachenko’s record. Salido wants to take the belt back, and with Vargas and former champion Takashi Miura of Japan also in the mix, we have a de facto 130 pound tournament in play. Salido and Miura are both hungry to get their belts back.
Felix Verdejo (20-0-0, 14 KOs) of Puerto Rico has been deemed a “rising star” and until his last few appearances, no one doubted it. In April against Jose Luis Rodriguez of Mexico and in February against William Silva of Brazil. Verdejo won two unanimous 10-round decisions, solid but uninspiring victories.
Juan Jose Martinez of Mexico (25-2, 17 KOs) makes his first appearance in the United States and only the second fight of his career outside of Mexico against Verdejo in a classic Puerto Rico versus Mexico matchup. Martinez is ranked just a few notches above Verdejo in the world lightweight standings according to BoxRec.com, but both are barely in the top 25.
Never mind that he’s undefeated. Verdejo needs to put on a good show and regain some of the momentum he’s lost recently to get his promising career back on track.
In a bonus bout for HBO, China’s Zou Shiming (7-1, 2 KOs) makes his American debut against Jozsef Ajtai of Hungary (15-2, 10 KOs), also making his American debut, in a 10-round flyweight fight for the WBO international belt. Shiming is wildly popular in China and has more commercial endorsements than any other Top Rank fighter except Manny Pacquiao. Top Rank’s Bob Arum says 50 times more people will watch Shiming from China than in the rest of the world Saturday. The 35 year old three time Olympic medalist is battling the clock to make a real splash in the pro ranks. Trainer Freddie Roach has struggled to convert Shiming to a more professional style approach to boxing.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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