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Las Vegas lightweight Rolando Romero seeks statement win Saturday

Boxing has always been in Las Vegas native Rolando Romero’s blood. It wasn’t in his heart, though, until he was 17.

“If … I could speak to myself (as a kid), I would slap myself across the face and say ‘You need to do this now,’” said Romero, now 24 and inching toward stardom in the sport. “(But) maybe I would have burnt out.”

Instead, he’s just beginning

Romero (11-0, 10 knockouts) is fighting Jackson Marinez (19-0, seven KOs) on Saturday for the interim WBA lightweight title at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The fight is the co-feature on Showtime’s second boxing card during the coronavirus pandemic. It could serve as a springboard for Romero, who wants to someday conquer the 135-pound division — and win world titles in multiple weight classes.

“I have 11 fights, and I’m fighting for a world title,” said Romero, a knockout artist who attended Southeast Career Technical Academy. “There’s not much better that I can do than that. … I’ve proved my hype, and they’re giving me the opportunity to show who I truly am.”

Romero was raised in North Las Vegas, but his father, Rolando Sr., was raised in Cuba, where he navigated through the country’s fabled amateur boxing system and blossomed into a three-time national champion. The younger Romero, though, wasn’t interested in boxing and favored judo despite the elder Romero’s urgings.

He resisted and resisted, but finally caved after watching the 2012 Olympics.

“As a kid, I wouldn’t even try or any of that stuff,” Romero recalled. “But from there, we kept training … I started boxing, and I’ve stuck with boxing ever since.”

Romero began training at Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Boxing Gym and injured some of his sparring partners en route to the discovery of his potent, natural punching power. He started his amateur career in 2013 and attempted to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, but he fell short. That prompted an eventual transition to Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s Mayweather Boxing Club, where he impressed Mayweather with his power during sparring.

“I would knock people out for fun,” Romero said. “I’ve knocked out so many people in my life, it’s unbelievable. I don’t even try to knock people out.”

Romero signed a promotional contract with Mayweather Promotions in November of 2016 and debuted weeks later with a knockout 1:11 into the first round. He’s stopped 10 of his first 11 opponents and has fought past the fourth round one time to date.

His fight against Marinez on Saturday is slated for 12 rounds.

Romero’s longtime trainer, Cromwell Gordon, says Romero is going to stick to his modus operandi and attempt to knock Marinez out. But “if all else fails, we’re going to box. Because we can do that.”

“Unless you need to do something against a certain opponent, why bring it out the bag?” Gordon said. “We only use what we need as we go on. I don’t think there’s nobody in his division … that can take his punch and recover. Once he clips them, it’s over.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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