The hard-hitting Romero rises off the canvas to earn a stoppage win and world title -- but not without some controversy.
Rolando “Rolly” Romero is an acquired taste. The newly minted 140-pounder cannot help himself sometimes. He looks in the mirror and sees “Sugar” Ray Leonard looking back. Can anyone really blame the 27-year-old?
Romero has charisma. He has undeniable talent. What he did not have entering his fight against 40-year-old Venezuelan southpaw slugger Ismael Barroso was a title belt on Saturday night in a Premier Boxing Champions event on SHOWTIME.
Romero left The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the WBA super lightweight world champion, though not without a tinge of controversy involved.
Romero stopped Barroso at 2:41 of the ninth round in what could be described as a dubious call from referee Tony Weeks. At the time of the stoppage, judges Tim Cheatham (76-75), Steve Weisfeld (78-73) and David Sutherland (77-74) all had Barroso up.
Even Romero admitted Barroso should have been allowed to continue.
“I’ll be honest, he’s a warrior and he should have been allowed to continue,” Romero said. “I boxed the entire time. I came in a little cold. I got cracked and I got up like a champion and kept going. I took my time and moved around. The man is strong so I had to be careful with him.
“Do you think I want to get caught by one of his (punches)? I told you the man can crack. I told everyone he could crack.”
In the opening round, Barroso touched Romero (15-1, 13 KOs) to the left side with a right, but otherwise, neither fight did much of anything in the first three minutes. With 1:30 left in the second, Barroso (24-4-2, 22 KOs) wound up on the canvas, though that came from a slip when the fighter’s legs became entangled. Through two, it was hard to figure out who had an edge.
The punch stats bore that out. Romero landed 2/46 punches thrown, and Barroso not much better, connecting on 5/44.
Fighting his third-straight southpaw, Romero patiently waited on Barroso, who was lunging when he threw his left, leaving himself exposed to a counter right. And yet, with 26 seconds left in the third, it was Romero who found himself on the canvas for the second time in his career, courtesy of a Barroso straight left to the face as Romero was backing up against the ropes.
“I was a little buzzed, I was a little off balance and I got caught,” Romero said. “I moved around and got back into it.”
Romero, blood dripping down his chin from his lower lip, caught Barroso with a left hook and began opening up. In between the fourth and fifth rounds, Barroso’s corner warned him to stop lunging.
With 2:00 left in the fifth, Romero landed an overhand left, followed by a right to the body. He also landed a solid left hook, as Barroso was leaning in. In the sixth, Barroso stung Romero with a left to head. In the seventh, Romero popped Barroso with a straight right, followed by a left hook upstairs.
The rounds were hard to decipher. Romero seemed more content to box than engage Barroso. It was the 40-year-old chasing down the 27-year-old.
Romero picked it up in the eighth. Then in the ninth, a straight right and then a hook hurt Barroso. Romero followed up by blasting Barroso with a left hook to the side of the head, followed by a cuffing right that appeared to be more a push than a punch. Nonetheless, it sent Barroso down for a knockdown—and infused Romero to finish him. Both fighters were going at each other in the final 30 seconds, each landing when Weeks, inexplicably, stepped in and stopped it at 2:41.
Nothing substantial landed when Weeks grabbed Romero and pulled him away.
“I am fine,” Barroso said. “I think it was an injustice to stop the fight. I was landing the better shots. It was a push on the first knockdown. It wasn’t a big blow or anything.
“The referee just stopped the fight and he didn’t say anything. You can see it clearly. I’m the one who’s hitting him. There was nothing clear that he hit me with. I don’t understand why they stopped the fight.”
Romero has sights set on big fights.
“The first punch was when I had him hurt to begin with,” Romero said. “It was right on the nose, it was a little clip. He wanted to keep going and I wanted him to keep going as well.
“There’s only two fights I want. There’s the rematch with [Gervonta] ‘Tank’ Davis. But I think there’s a much bigger option. I want to go after Ryan Garcia. We can do it on Showtime Pay-Per-View.”
Rances Barthelemy takes a majority decision over Omar Juarez
Fighting at a contract weight of 143 pounds, 37-year-old former two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy bounced back from being stopped for the first time in his career against Gary Antuanne Russell last July with a 10-round majority decision over 23-year-old Omar “El Relampago” Juarez.
Judges Dave Moretti (97-93) and Patricia Morse Jarman (98-92) scored for the Cuban southpaw, overruling Max De Luca’s 95-95 draw.
“I tried to win this fight intelligently with my brains against a young fighter and that’s what I did,” Barthelemy said. “I understand that most of the fans are Mexican here and they were going for Juarez. But I also had my Cuban fans and they were cheering. I want a rematch even more than a title shot. I want that rematch with Gary Antuanne Russell. I want it badly.”
In his colorful flaming pink trunks and shoes, Barthelemy (30-2-1, 15 KOs) stood tall and patiently pecked at Juarez early on. Though considered a southpaw, Barthelemy switched stances, and appeared to be more effective more out of the conventional stance than as a southpaw. The two rarely threw punches in combination. For both, early on, it was one punch at a time.
Juarez put some heat on Barthelemy in the last minute of the third, but the Cuban expatriate slipped free before more damage was able to be done. Juarez kept ceding space to the taller Barthelemy, who took advantage by staying on the outside and using his range to connect.
By the middle rounds, that changed.
Juarez (14-2, 5 KOs) had closed to within striking distance, and began pressing Barthelemy against the ropes, cleaving the Cuban’s high guard with right and left uppercuts. Juarez would then drop left hooks to the body.
Juarez lead rights backed up Barthelemy.
During the times Barthelemy answered, it was often with one punch. Rarely was it in combination.
Sensing he needed the last round, Juarez attacked Barthelemy under a barrage of combinations. Barthelemy landed a left to the head midway through the round, and with :17 left in the fight, referee Thomas Taylor momentarily stopped the fight to allow Juarez to recover from a low blow.
“It is what it is. I honestly thought I did enough to win, but all that’s left is to keep working hard for next time,” Juarez said. “My one mistake was not staying on top of him. I should have been more aggressive. I’ll let my hands do the talking and stay humble. Thank you, fans, for the support. I’m going for more.”
Kenneth Sims Jr. edges Batyr Akhmedov in Fight of the Year candidate
Both Sims and Akhmedov found a little something in a super lightweight classic and potential Fight of the Year candidate, won by Sims on a 12-round majority decision.
“This is the fight that I expected,” Sims said. “This is what I’ve been waiting on for years. Like I said before, I thought he won the title in his last fight so I thought he should be a world champion. So, this just showed I’m ready for whatever. I’m ready to be world champion.
“I’m not supposed to be here right now. I’m not supposed to be here right now. That’s what they say. Ain’t nobody thought I would be here right now. And I know that I’m the best so at 140 it’s whatever. I’m ready for anyone.”
Sims (20-2-1, 7 KOs) and Akhmedov combined to land more punches in any fight so far in 2023 (640 punches).
Judges Tim Cheatham (116-112) and Chris Migliore (115-113) both had Sims winning, overruling Steve Weisfeld’s 114-114 draw.
In the opening rounds, Sims was effective using a straight right down the middle to tap Akhmedov, and the former two-time world title challenger kept burrowing forward. It was Sims snapping off counter combinations, going up and down on Akhmedov.
By the third, Akhmedov (9-3, 8 KOs) started getting inside and chopping at Sims’ sides. By the fifth, Akhmedov began finding his distance, and in the sixth, he was backing up Sims. It was really a great round. Akhmedov would punish Sims with body shots, some on the boarder, and Sims countered with quick combinations and right uppercuts.
“This is what I expected,” Sims said. “This is what I expected of him but I’m a savage. I’m a dog. I have that dog in me. And that’s what I was saying during this whole time leading up to this that I had that dog in me and I was going to show them.”
In the last minute of the eighth, Akhmedov had Sims against the ropes, and Sims fought his way free, countering back. Sims had a very good ninth, the first time he had ever been beyond eight rounds as a pro. With 1:41 left in the 10th, Sims, with his right eye swelling, nailed Akhmedov in the chin with a right.
“My eye wasn’t bothering me,” Sims said. “I don’t care. Like I said, ‘I’m a savage.’ I don’t care.”
Akhmedov had to sense he was losing the sway of the fight in the 11th. Switching from orthodox to southpaw, southpaw to orthodox, Sims bashed a right off of Akhmedov’s head with 1:22 left in the round. Akhmedov, to his credit, kept pressuring Sims and closed very strongly, landing a brutal left to Sims’ body in the final second. Sims winced as the round ended.
Akhmedov opened the last round well, sawing at Sims’ body. Sims fired back, smacking Akhmedov in the head. Sims’ right eye looked swollen shut, and Akhmedov was bruised around his eyes.
“I felt confident that I was winning the fight,” Akhmedov said. “I felt confident that I’m winning the fight. But it’s like every time I don’t stop my opponent it’s like they win. It seems like it’s a goal against me. If they reach the 12th round it’s like they already won and they’re already celebrating because the judges give it to them. Look at the punch stats. It’s the third time in a row. I won again. I’m winning rounds, I’m throwing more, I’m hurting him more. He’s surviving seven rounds out of 12.
“For me it’s tough because I give all my life to this sport. I’ve been participating in this sport all my life. But it’s really unfortunate. I believe that I’m winning but I don’t get the decision, so I want to ask the people who won the fight.”
Afterward, the two looked they survived a war—because they did.
“I want the winner of the main event,” said Sims. “I want that title. That’s it. Whoever wins the main event that’s who I want.”
Michael Angeletti, Justin Viloria shine
Rising bantamweight prospect Michael Angeletti (8-0, 7 KOs) from New Orleans knocked down Venezuela’s Michell Banquez (20-4, 14 KOs) and referee Chris Flores stepped in to stop the bout a minute later earning Angeletti the TKO in the eighth and final round at 1:15 of the frame. With a large contingent of supporters in attendance, Justin Viloria (2-0, 2 KO) won his second fight since turning pro last month as the 18-year-old from Whittier looked solid in a fourth-round TKO stoppage (1:41) against Colombian Pedro Pinillo (5-2, 5 KOs) in a scheduled six-round super featherweight bout.
For a closer look at Romero vs Barroso, check out our fight night page.