Verdejo and Sosa Controversy: Should Pro Boxers Be Subject to the Death Penalty?
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Two recent incidents involving the deaths of a family member by pro boxers has revisited the old argument. Does Dementia Pugilistica, as in professional boxers getting hit in the head over a period of time, create a diminished brain capacity constituting mitigating circumstances in an actual trial where the death penalty could be a consequence?
Two veteran boxers, George Sosa and Felix Verdejo, are both currently entangled in such a web, and face the death penalty, Sosa in conjunction with the death of his father, and Verdejo in the death of his girlfriend. It should be noted both individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty in the American justice system.
The critical issue is a brain scan, and evidence of the brain functioning in a diminished capacity. Both Sosa and Verdejo have been hit in the head numerous times as professional boxers. A medical evaluation can determine to what extent if any both combatants have incurred brain damage that might have contributed to their behavior. This is not true of all boxers, only some.
Welterweight and junior middleweight George “El Terrible” Sosa, 15-12-1, 15 knockouts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was arrested in Miami, Florida, on February 26, 2018, for the second-degree murder of his father; and burglary, breaking into a woman’s apartment and watching television in the bed. The Miami medical examiner stated the victim Mr. Sosa suffered multiple injuries to the neck and throat areas. Miami judge Mindy Glazer said in court George Sosa had an altercation with his father (which escalated to a fatality). Sosa’s last ring appearance was on February 17, 2018, a fifth-round stoppage loss to Tony Harrison at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and lightweight contender Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo, and accomplice Luis Antonio Cadiz-Martinez, faces the death penalty on one count each of carjacking resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, and killing an unborn child in the abduction and murder of his lover Keishla Marlen Rodriguez. A guilt finding on trial by the United States Department of Justice at the Federal level on any of these three charges will result in an automatic death penalty. Verdejo also faces one count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment in conjunction with a guilty verdict with any or all of the three capital offenses previously listed.
If the United State Attorney’s office does not pursue capital punishment as a consequence, Puerto Rico’s laws carry a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison for a guilty finding on each charge. Verdejo, 27-2 with 17 knockouts, San Juan, Puerto Rico, last fought on December 12, 2020, incurring a ninth-round knockout loss to Masayoshi Nakatani at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both men are liable for their actions. Will they be tested thoroughly for Dementia Pugilistica? In this reporter’s view, culpability for homicide is best served by obtaining some sort of guilty plea, along with a medical report (if documented) explained the extent and degree of brain injuries that occurred, if it can be proven to the satisfaction of in a court of law, to what degree is the brain damage sustained, and to what long term medical effects.
Pro football has dealt with the issue of long-term head injuries and the health effects of its players in the NFL. Boxing has no national or international research standard as to the long-term effects of Dementia Pugilistica, and to what extent amateur and professional boxers are affected. Two professional boxers are facing the death penalty, and it seems to me there’s a tremendous argument for diminished capacity due to getting hit in the head by punches numerous times. Not all boxers have emotional issues leading to trials of this extent with Sosa and Verdejo, but it happens with athletes from time to time, like any other group of people. However, boxers get hit in the head, and athletes with severe concussions or worse long term damage to the brain fall into a difficult category.
Sosa and Verdejo are liable for their actions. There should be a full medical evaluation. One way or the other, both of them are not quite right, and need to be removed from society. As to whether the issues are legal, or medical, remain to be determined, but probably society will throw the book at them. This reporter is just saying there may be underlying issues to the boxing careers of the Sosa and Verdejo. The brain damage sustained, and their medical issues, cannot be overlooked by the trial judge and jury.