Now that Puerto Rico’s heir to Miguel Cotto’s boxing throne in Felix Verdejo has been unexpectedly knocked off before even getting a whiff of it, the urge to fill the superstar void has increased. Fighters like Jose Pedraza, Thomas Dulorme, the Arroyo brothers, and others have represented the Caribbean island proudly, but they aren’t likely to reach the rarified air of many of their predecessors.
Can the 23-year-old, Humacao-born, Jantony Ortiz Marcano be “The One”? He certainly has distinguished amateur pedigree, which is oftentimes a recipe for pro success. “Nenito” was a mere 16 years of age when he won the national championship while competing as part of Puerto Rico’s boxing team. He was the youngest to ever accomplish such a feat. Jantony also participated in 2011’s Pan American Games, 2012’s Summer Olympics, and 2013’s World Championships. While he came up short in bids for gold, it’s well-known in boxing circles that men flying the single-starred red, white, and blue banner generally have styles better equipped for the paid ranks.
Marcano looks no different, in that regard, fighting in a boxer-puncher style that has long become Puerto Rico’s trademark. He fights tall, yet gives side-to-side movement; he jabs, yet understands to put his punches together; he maintains an offensive posture but doesn’t shun defense. This has put him at a clip of 8-0, 4 KOs, though the opposition has been a series of subtle upward steps, as it is with most at this juncture.
Of course what may ultimately hold the Miguel Cotto-promoted fighter back, whether he turns out to be “the goods” or not, is the viewership smudge that is his size. He’s 5’5”, 118-pounder, and it goes without much elaboration that any fistic contestant below 135 has a difficult time capturing sustained attention from the public. It doesn’t mean he can’t carve something significant out for himself, however. Recent boxers like Ivan Calderon and Eric Morel, all the way down through Wilfredo Gomez and even Sixto Escobar, did just fine for themselves as small men.
Legacy road goes through fellow undefeated Puerto Rican Abimael Ortiz, 5-0-1, 3 KOs, on the 19th of this month.