Weekend Review: Rolando Romero escapes with belt on forgettable night

A critical look at the past week in boxing

Rolando Romero

What a disaster. Romero gave a weak performance, hit the canvas, was awarded a dubious knockdown himself and then received the ultimate gift by the referee: a knockout of Ismael Barroso he didn’t deserve in the ninth to win a 140-pound title that is tainted from the beginning Saturday in Las Vegas. On top of that the fight was boring as hell. The boxers landed a combined total of 104 punches over eight-plus rounds, according to CompuBox. It wasn’t a good night for anyone involved. Romero was overly cautious because he didn’t want to get caught by a big shot, which allowed Barroso to lead on all three cards at the time of the stoppage. The 40-year-old slugger from Venezuela didn’t do much either but he put Romero down in Round 3 and pushed the action for most of the fight. He seemed to have victory within his grasp. That’s why the events of Round 9 were particularly galling. First a knockdown that was the result of a push, not a punch. Then a stoppage by referee Tony Weeks even though Barroso was on his feet and defending himself. Bad fight, bad performance by Romero, bad miscue by Weeks. Rarely has a fighter accomplished so little by winning a major belt.

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Ismael Barroso

Rolando Romero pushed Ismael Borroso down in Round 9.  Steve Marcus / Getty Images

You have to feel for Barroso. He did all he could in light of his advanced age to earn a 78-73, 77-74 and 76-75 on the cards after eight completed rounds, leaving him in a strong position to win his first world title late in the game. Then it was gone. The stoppage justifiably outraged many of those watching but that doesn’t do Barroso any good. He lost the fight as the result of a referee’s mistake and might never get another opportunity to challenge for a major championship, which makes Weeks’ actions all the more heartbreaking. Even Romero acknowledged afterward that the fight shouldn’t have been stopped. There’s only way Barroso can get a modicum of justice: a rematch. If anyone deserves it, it’s him after the debacle on Saturday night. Will Romero give him a second chance? He mentioned the names Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia afterward, not Barroso. Hopefully the new titleholder and his handlers will push higher-profile matchups up one fight and do the right thing. Barroso earned it.



Tony Weeks

Should Ismael Barroso (left) been allowed to continue?  Steve Marcus / Getty Images

Was the stoppage as bad as it looked? It’s tough to make a case for Weeks, who is a respected veteran referee who had an off night. Barroso might’ve been in a somewhat weakened state after Romero pushed him down and followed with a flurry of punches meant to end the fight. The problem is that few of those shots found the target. And Barroso never stopped fighting back, unloading — and landing — his own hard blows. That’s why Weeks’ ultimate decision was so shocking. The universal reaction surely was, “What?!” Weeks was physically closer to Barroso than anyone else – maybe he saw something we didn’t – but most will agree, based on what they could see, that Weeks blew it. And that was only Part II of this fiasco. The knockdown moments earlier shouldn’t have been a knockdown. Romero did land a left but Barroso took the punch. Replays made it clear that it was a push that sent him to the canvas. Of course, Weeks didn’t enjoy the benefit of a replay. And he would argue that Barroso wasn’t in condition to continue when he stopped the fight, according to his judgment. Still, it’s clear that it wasn’t Weeks’ best night in the ring.



Romero vs. Davis or Garcia

Romero said he would like to defend his new title against Ryan Garcia, which makes sense on more than one level. Garcia’s fanbase would bring a great deal of attention to the fight. And Garcia is deemed beatable after his knockout loss to Gervonta Davis last month, although Romero also was stopped by Tank. My advice to Romero: Be careful what you wish for. Garcia would eat Romero alive. Garcia has the amateur foundation Romero lacks and is both quicker and more powerful than the titleholder. Romero wouldn’t last six rounds. Romero also said after his victory on Saturday that he wants a rematch with Davis, who stopped him in six. Forget it. He was competitive with Davis for five-plus rounds because Davis is a patient fighter who often eases his way into his fights, not because Romero has comparable abilities to that of Davis. Romero would be wise to give Barroso a rematch and continue to develop before tangling with Garcia or Davis a second time.



Janibek Alimkhanuly

Alimkhanuly (14-0, 9 KOs) gave a so-so performance in a unanimous decision victory over Denzel Bentley in November, raising questions about the former amateur world champion’s ceiling. He answered those questions Saturday. The 160-pound titleholder put overmatched Steven Butler (32-4-1, 26 KOs) down three times and stopped him, all in a wild, dominating Round 2. OK, we shouldn’t get carried away with Alimkhanuly’s victory. Butler (32-4-1, 26 KOs) was grossly overmatched, which limits the significance of the winner’s accomplishment. At the same time, the 30-year-old Kazakhstani’s spectacular performance on national television in the U.S. will have boosted his profile and increased his chances of luring a top middleweight into the ring. He called out fellow 160-pound titleholder Jermall Charlo and 168-pound champion Canelo Alvarez in the wake of his knockout. I doubt he did enough to land one of those opponents but he certainly took a step in that direction.




The best fight on the Romero-Barroso card was a brilliant, back-and-forth scrap between Kenneth Sims Jr. and Batyr Akhmedov that Sims won by a majority decision. Sims (20-2-1, 7 KOs) has long been considered an excellent technician with limited power who couldn’t quite reach elite status. He did that on Saturday, boxing well, withstanding Akhmedov’s relentless pressure and fighting hard until the end of the battle of 140-pound contenders. He is now a legitimate opponent for anyone. Akhmedov (9-3, 8 KOs)? I can’t blame him for feeling that the powers that be are working against him because he has now ended up on the wrong end of three close, disputable decisions. I hope he doesn’t give up. He’s obviously an excellent fighter. … Kudos to Jason Moloney (26-2, 19 KOs) on his perseverance. The Australian had failed in previous attempts to win major titles against Emmanul Rodriguez and then Naoya Inoue but finally got over the hump against Vincent Astrolabio (18-4, 13 KOs) on the Alimkhanuly-Butler card, winning a majority decision to claim the vacant WBO 118-pound belt.


Watch it: Janibek Alimkhanuly's brutal second-round knockout of Steven Butler

Janibek Alimkhanuly makes statement with brutal KO of Steven Butler

You be judge: Was Rolando Romero-Ismael Barroso stoppage warranted?

Rolando Romero becomes titleholder as result of controversial stoppage

Kenneth Sims defeats Batyr Akhmedov by majority decision in entertaining bout

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie