OPINION: With the Death of Keishla Rodríguez, Boxer Félix Verdejo Is Failure of a Man

May 3, 2021
9:39 AM

Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo in 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

On Saturday afternoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico, just two days after she was reported missing, 27-year-old Keishla Marlen Rodríguez was found dead in Laguna San José.

Rodríguez was one month pregnant. The father of her child was Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo. It was also one day after Verdejo was questioned by local authorities and refused to answer questions regarding his potential involvement at the advice of a lawyer. On late Sunday afternoon, Verdejo turned himself in to federal agents. He is being charged with kidnapping resulting in death and intentionally killing an unborn child. If convicted, Verdejo is eligible for the death penalty.

The criminal complaint against Verdejo alleges that he punched Rodríguez Ortiz in the face, injected her with a substance-filled syringe, restrained her arms and feet with a wire along with a second person involved, tied a block to her, threw her over the bridge and into the water, and Verdejo even shot at her body with a pistol.

It’s the failure to protect yet another woman who mattered in Puerto Rico just months after Governor Pedro Pierluisi declared a state of emergency in response to violence against women on the island. It’s the failure of a barbarous soon-to-be-former boxer who disregarded a woman who had a tattoo dedicated to him on her back.

And it’s the worst nightmare of a mother to bury her daughter, of a family to bury their own young, and for their trauma to unfold before a worldwide phone-having audience.


Now, instead of comparisons to his idol Félix Trinidad, Verdejo —if convicted— will be forever mentioned in the same breath as Edwin Valero, a Venezuelan former boxer and world champion who stabbed his wife and killed himself in 2010.

Back on March 17, 2018, I had been covering a boxing card at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City, with the idea of building a feature story around “Diamante” Verdejo, along with fellow Puerto Ricans Christopher “Pitufo” Díaz and José “Sniper” Pedraza, who were competing on the same docket. Pedraza won an unspectacular decision against a challenger with 11 losses, Díaz secured the WBO NABO Super Featherweight Championship by KO, and Verdejo, well …

Leading up to that night, Verdejo had amassed a perfect 23-0 record with 15 knockouts, but he wasn’t quite the untouchable sure thing he was perceived to be years earlier. He represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 Summer Olympics, turning pro later that year. In 2013, he won an award for “New Hispanic Promise” at Premios Lo Nuestro, and in 2014 he took home Prospect of the Year Awards from ESPN and Top Rank, who hasn’t yet severed ties with him as of this writing.

However, the timeline of blemishes began to happen, resulting in years of massive disappointments, from motorcycle accidents to mysterious camp injuries to just bad performances.

It got to the point where you expected failure to follow Verdejo as much as you anticipated a one-year-old to fall while attempting to walk. Then, this past December, Señor Decepción made a comeback that ended at the hands of Masayoshi Nakatani.

Verdejo was already a disappointment as a boxer. Now he’s a failure of a man.

Never mind having a wife of several years, a relationship that includes a daughter, and then impregnating another woman. Keishla is dead, and Verdejo is reportedly responsible, which her mother believed all along.

You would think it goes without saying that Keishla deserved better than being a floating, dead corpse in a lake while one month pregnant, yet in 2021, we’re constantly reminded that the mere thought of equality isn’t resonating universally, and it’s embarrassing. The bottom line is that Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz is dead, aged just 27 while pregnant. Another woman suffered an avoidable death due to violent toxic masculinity, and this time, it was on the watch of the most disappointing hands in Puerto Rican boxing history.

The need to do better as a society is a grand understatement.


Bryan Fonseca is an award-winning sports journalist, with bylines for Deadspin. He is also founder, host and executive producer of the Ain’t Hard To Tell Podcast and Side Hustle. Twitter: @BryanFonsecaNY.