After 12 months out of the ring, Rolly Romero (14-1, 12 KOs) returns to take on Venezuela’s Ismael Barroso (24-3-2, 22KOs) this Saturday night in Las Vegas. The fight has gained a lot more significance this week with the now vacant WBA Super-Lightweight title up for grabs following Alberto Puello testing positive for a banned substance. This weeks Spotlight focuses on Romero as he looks to capture the strap this weekend.
Rolanda “Rolly” Romero was born and raised in downtown Las Vegas. Romero grew up in a violent neighbourhood but found solace and discipline in the sport of Judo. Alongside his sister, Romero excelled in Judo and even became a national champion.
Aged 16 and inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Romero began training at Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym in Las Vegas, encouraged by his father, who was a former boxer in Cuba. His natural power and talent caught the attention of none other than Floyd Mayweather, who witnessed Romero’s devastating sparring sessions and decided to sign him in November 2016.
Romero’s professional debut in December 2016 was a glimpse of things to come, as he scored a first-round stoppage of David Courtney. He quickly built a reputation as a knockout artist, winning his next eight fights, with all but one ending by stoppage.
In his first step-up in competition, Romero faced Juan Carlos Cordones in November 2019 and made a statement by knocking him out in the first round. He followed up this impressive performance with a second-round technical knockout victory over Arturs Ahmetovs in February 2020, showcasing his power and skill on the undercard of the Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury II fight.
Romero’s biggest moment came in August 2020 when he fought undefeated Jackson Maríñez for the vacant WBA interim lightweight title. In a closely contested bout, Romero captured the title via a controversial unanimous decision. Although many felt that Maríñez had done enough to win, Romero’s power and relentless pressure ultimately earned him the nod from the judges.
Throughout 2021, Romero continued his winning streak with dominant performances against Avery Sparrow and Anthony Yigit. He showcased his knockout power once again, stopping both opponents to retain his WBA interim lightweight title. However, his unbeaten run came to an end in May 2022 when he faced Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a highly anticipated bout. Davis proved to be too much for Romero, and he suffered a sixth-round stoppage defeat.
Rolly was not able to recover from a devastating left hook that dropped him against the ropes and too the canvas. He miraculously made it back on his feet before the count but was too dazed and the referee stopped the fight. Despite the knockout though, many felt he showcased many strengths in the fight and put in a solid performance against one of the best Pound-For-Pound fighters in the world.
It has now been a year since the defeat but now Romero finally returns to the ring Saturday night as he looks to rebuild. Rolly is moving up a weight division and capturing the vacant WBA World Super Light title would certainly do this and could even see calls for a rematch with Tank but this time at 140lbs!
One thing that is for sure is that with a win on Saturday night, he wont be short of options in the 140 Division with the likes of Ryan Garcia, Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez to name but a few!
By Lee Browne