The hard-hitting Romero aims to add another knockout to his ledger when he challenges Ismael Barroso for the 140-pound title Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
Before he ever stepped foot in a professional boxing ring, Rolando “Rolly” Romero was known by another heroic nickname.
“In the amateurs, they would always call me ‘Clark Kent’ because I wore these glasses,” Romero reminisced while squinting. “I’d take them off, start looking at everybody and they’d be like ‘man this dude is Clark Kent.’... but during the fight, I’d be f****** them up.”
Seven years later, Romero’s (14-1, 12 KOs) right hand of steel has catapulted the 27-year-old Las Vegas native onto some of the sport’s biggest stages. On Saturday, he’ll try to leap into the conversation of the world’s best super lightweights in a single round.
The former interim lightweight champion makes his 140-pound debut Saturday, May 13, against savvy southpaw Ismael Barroso (24-3-2, 22 KOs) in a 12-round main event for the vacant WBA World Lightweight Title at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas in a Premier Boxing Champions event live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Romero was originally slated to face former WBA champion Alberto Puello before Puello failed a VADA test last April. “Rolly” was quickly matched with the hard-hitting Venezuelan for the world title.
Although Puello’s removal from the card was a disappointment, Romero’s dealt with fights falling through in the past. In his 12th pro bout, Romero fought Avery Sparrow as a last-minute replacement after Justin Pauldo showed up five pounds overweight.
The next fight, Romero’s scheduled opponent, Austin Dulay, pulled out days before their bout after suffering a knee injury. Romero stopped late-replacement Anthony Yigit in seven rounds.
“I don’t believe the fight’s ever going to happen until the bell rings,” Romero said. “I’ve had people pull out the day of a fight so it’s frustrating, but this is boxing.”
Despite Romero’s history with last-minute cancellations, he expects Barroso to come ready to fight on Saturday. The 40-year-old vet hasn’t lost since 2018 and is coming off back-to-back knockouts of Fernando David Saucedo and Nestor Hugo Paniagua.
Blessed with fight-ending power in an awkward southpaw stance, Barroso’s experience poses an interesting threat to the young contender, but Romero’s done his homework in the short timespan.
“[Barroso] can crack,” Romero said. “He throws these short tricky left hands out of nowhere. He has a lot of experience and he’s going to be ready to go to war.”
“ On May 13th, I’ll be champion again ” Super Lightweight Contender - Rolando "Rolly" Romero
It’s been just under a year since Romero has last seen battle, and he remembers the night well. Leading on one-of-three official scorecards against boxing superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Romero tasted defeat for the first time in his career when he was knocked out by a counter left hand with 21 seconds left in the sixth round. To this day, Romero refuses to view the fight as a loss, but acknowledges the mistake that cost him his perfect record.
“I did not lose,” Romero said. “I dominated and beat the s*** out of him and then I got caught, you know. He didn’t win. I gave him that fight.”
Romero has kept his eyes on Davis’ meteoric rise up the pound-for-pound standings and hopes the two rivals will finish their business someday.
Over 19,000 people packed the Barclays Center that night and a rematch could be in the cards down the line. In the meantime, as Davis looks to conquer the rest of the lightweight division, Romero says the fresh start at 140 has been long overdue.
“The thing is my natural weight is 140 [pounds],” Romero said. “I just kept getting opportunities at 135 … so I stayed at 135 and I knew it was killing me, but if I moved up to 140, I’d have to restart and all that stuff.”
Despite his larger, stronger frame, Romero says he grew the most outside of the ring over the last year. He’s more focused, disciplined and at peace with his life outside the squared circle.
“I just became more mature,” Romero said. “Taking care of a lot of things in my life, moving forward in certain parts and just trying to be a better man in general.”
It’s rare for a fighter coming off their first loss to be thrusted back immediately into a world title fight, and Romero’s not taking his opportunity lightly. After seven long years at lightweight, Romero has a chance to make an immediate impact at 140 if he handles business this weekend.
“On May 13th, I’ll be champion again,” Romero announced. “This is about me getting that belt and then after this I’m going to have some fun.”
For a closer look at Rolando Romero, check out his fighter page.