Specators inside the Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas tried to will North Las Vegas native Rolando Romero to victory Saturday night in his WBA junior welterweight title fight, even chanting his name during various junctures of an uninspiring performance.
But those chants became boos by the end of the bout — courtesy of referee Tony Weeks.
Romero (15-1, 13 knockouts) was gifted his first world title by Weeks, who inexplicably stopped the fight 2:41 into the ninth round and upended 40-year-old Venezuelan Ismael Barroso’s upset bid on Showtime via Premier Boxing Champions.
The 27-year-old Romero was floored by Barroso’s straight left hand in the second round and trailed 78-73, 77-74, 76-74 at the time of a stoppage that occurred after Romero unloaded an errant combination.
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Even Romero was surprised, telling Showtime’s Jim Gray afterward that Barroso’s “a warrior and he should have been allowed to continue” amid a chorus of boos from the crowd.
“The referee just stopped the fight and he didn’t say anything,” Barroso said through an interpreter. “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.”
The bout with Barroso (23-4-2, 22 KOs) was the first in 11 months for Romero, who last lost via sixth-round knockout to lightweight superstar Gervonta Davis at the Barclays Center in New York. Romero was originally scheduled to face former WBA 140-pound champion Alberto Puello, now the champion in recess after testing positive last month for the banned substance clomiphene.
Though 13 years Romero’s senior, Barroso operated as the aggressor and landed 57 punches compared to 47 for his opponent, per CompuBox. He also threw 266 compared to 198 for Romero, who circled around the ring and hardly let his hands go despite spirited support from a hometown crowd.
But Romero opened up at the beginning of the ninth round, buzzing Barroso with a left hand that preceded what was ruled a knockdown. He appeared to nudge Barroso to the canvas with his right hand.
Barroso said, “It was a push on the first knockdown. It wasn’t a big blow or anything.”
Romero remained aggressive and unloaded a flurry of punches that Barroso slipped and ducked. Weeks thought otherwise and ended the fight, though Barroso was fit to continue.
“He wanted to keep going, and I wanted him to keep going as well,” Romero said.
Regardless of the way the fight ended, Romero is indeed a world champion — joining WBC champion Regis Prograis, IBF champion Subriel Matias and WBO champion Josh Taylor as a 140-pound titlist.
But he has his sights sets on two other opponents instead.
“There’s only two fights I want. There’s the rematch with Tank Davis,” Romero said. “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.”
Sims shines on undercard
On the undercard, Kenneth Sims Jr. (20-2-1, seven KOs) claimed a 116-112, 115-113, 114-114 decision over former title challenger Batyr Akhmedov (9-3, eight KOs) in a WBA junior welterweight title eliminator. There were 640 punches landed, 309 by Sims and 331 by Akhmedov, the most in a fight so far this year.
In the co-feature, former two-weight world champion Rances Barthelemy (30-2-1, 15 KOs) claimed a 98-92, 97-93, 95-95 victory over Omar Juarez (14-2, five KOs) in a 140-pound matchup. A Las Vegas resident, Barthelemy landed 95 punches to 101 for Juarez.