Collision course – Gervonta Davis vs Rolando Romero

Rolando Romero talks up his chances against Gervonta Davis but it could be much too soon for him, writes John Dennen

HOW is Rolando Romero so confident that he beats Gervonta Davis? From the way he talks and trashtalks, he seems convinced that he is on course for a memorable victory when he meets “Tank” at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn on Saturday (May 28).

“I’m knocking him out. If I say I’m going to do it, then I’m going to do it,” Romero declared. “He’s going to get knocked out by the first punch that he eats. He’s going to run right into something.”

But there is scant evidence to back up his self-belief. He’s only had 14 professional fights and while he’s won them all, he hasn’t boxed anyone at Davis’ level. His best victory came against Anthony Yigit, a solid former European champion. Romero did rough him up, put him down and stop him. He did it with a weight disadvantage, a lightweight going against an 140-pounder. Yigit was stepping in as a replacement opponent for Romero but he had been due to box on the same card, so Romero can consider it a good win.

But further down his record there’s not all that much to boast about. He halted Avery Sparrow in his second bout of last year, an opponent who had come in at short notice. A 2020 12-round points victory over Jackson Mariñez is really what helped him get to this fight. That saw him pick up an ‘interim’ lightweight strap courtesy of the WBA, which at least in that sanctioning body’s eyes sets him up for a crack at the WBC lightweight belt Davis holds. But don’t mistake that piece of silverware for the world championship. George Kambosos is the lightweight world champion and among the three sanctioning body straps he holds is the WBA’s ‘Super’ lightweight belt. The WBA wanting to call three fighters champion in the same weight class is another matter altogether.

The result of that fight was controversial, with Mariñez hotly disputing the verdict. Romero got to move on but he still has to prove himself against an élite lightweight. Gervonta Davis is just that. He is ranked the number three contender at 135lbs for good reason. A dazzling puncher, he is a real star in American boxing. He has jumped around in weight, breaking down Mario Barrios up at super-welter, icing Léo Santa Cruz at super-feather with one of the best uppercuts you’ll see in recent times, stopping Yuriorkis Gamboa at lightweight and rarely looking anything less than brilliant.

Romero had initially been booked in to box Davis last December. That was cancelled when allegations of sexual assault were made against Romero. No charges have since been filed and so the contest was rescheduled.

Davis did box in December, with Mexico’s Isaac Cruz coming in to make a better fight. Gervonta did struggle in that contest. Isaac Cruz had no respect for the American’s reputation. With compact boxing he brought pressure and applied it well, catching Davis with good shots. Though a power-puncher, Davis used his southpaw boxing skills to adjust and win a decision. That then might have given Romero cause for hope.

However Cruz, though he’s young, was an experienced and proven fighter. Romero is not coming in with the same credentials and he does not appear to have the right style to give Davis that kind of trouble. He is heavy-handed and will have to rely on trying to overpower Davis. He hits with a concussive cross and looks to throw his jab before turning that left in as a hefty left hook. The weight of his punching has got him so far. But to beat Gervonta Davis he will need more. It would be a revelation if Romero could unearth another dimension to his boxing. From what he’s shown so far, he makes too many mistakes. He might put as much energy as he can muster into his punches, but too often he stands in front of the target afterwards, bringing his hands back too low. He can be guilty of poor footwork, bringing his feet together as he comes forward, and errors like that will be badly punished by Davis.

It’s easy to envision Davis countering him with his own explosive punches and forcing a stoppage. Davis is the pick to win inside the distance.
Romero will have to hope that he will successfully goad Davis and tempt him away from using his southpaw skills into swinging wildly as he tries to hurt Romero too soon. He needs to try to lure Davis into the kind of firefight where he might have a chance, but even then it would be a slim one.
“Their only plan is to knock me out. I hit him with one of these and I’m going to knock his whole nose off. They just keep talking about knockouts and trying to get me out of there early, because they know he can’t last down the line,” Davis said. “Some people are made to do it, and some people just talk their way through it. We know what we’re coming here to do on May 28.”

That this fight, which could well turn out to be a mismatch, is on Showtime pay-per-view in the US is a sign of how much faith the broadcaster has in Davis as a draw. But with an explosive performance, the American should serve a reminder of how exciting the lightweight division could become.

An unexpected match up on the undercard sees Ireland’s Gary O’Sullivan going in with Erislandy Lara. Ireland’s O’Sullivan suffered a painful one-round knockout loss to David Lemieux in 2018 but in 2020 lasted into the 11th with Jaime Munguía.

The Cuban is an ageing veteran now but it’s unlikely O’Sullivan will be able to join Jarrett Hurd, Canelo Álvarez and Paul Williams as the only people to have defeated Lara.

The Verdict Davis expected to return in devastating fashion.

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