Rolando “Rolly” Romero may have been the recipient of one of the greatest bailouts in boxing history on Saturday night when he was blatantly gifted a ninth-round TKO against Ismael Barroso to win the vacant WBA junior welterweight title.
Romero had been outboxed throughout the fight, taking a passive offensive approach against the 40-year-old, late-replacement opponent. As Barroso picked up rounds on the scorecards, Romero’s need to find some late magic was only amplified when he was dropped by a Barroso left hand in the third round.
Barroso continued to find success with left hands to both the body and head as the rounds ticked by. Romero seemed uninterested in countering or really engaging offensively in most rounds, allowing Barroso’s steady, though not dynamic, attack to pile up rounds on unofficial and official cards alike.
Things turned in Round 9, when Romero landed a solid punch that did seem to stun Barroso slightly, but he then blatantly shoved Barroso to the canvas. Despite the shove causing the knockdown and not a punch, referee Tony Weeks declared a knockdown, setting Romero up for a badly needed 10-8 round.
Barroso recovered and the two men began exchanging in the corner, with Barroso landing the cleaner punches as Romero tried to flurry with big power shots. Despite none of Romero’s shots landing cleanly — and, again, Barroso landing the better punches — Weeks then jumped in to call a halt to the bout and give Romero a world title at 140 pounds.
The reaction to the stoppage was immediate both on the broadcast and social media, with many saying the stoppage ranks among the worst in recent memory, if not all of boxing history.
Barroso was deservedly up on all three official scorecards at the time of the stoppage and Romero had not looked good at any point in the fight, hardly a solid bounce-back performance after he was badly knocked out by Gervonta “Tank” Davis in his previous outing.
“I’ll be honest, he’s a warrior and he should have been allowed to continue,” Romero said after the fight. “I boxed the entire time. I came in a little cold. I got cracked and I got up like a champion and kept going. I took my time and moved around. The man is strong so I had to be careful with him.”
Barroso earned a long-promised shot at the vacant belt when Romero’s original opponent, WBA champion Alberto Puello, failed a drug test. Despite many questioning Romero getting a world title shot in a new weight class after a knockout loss one weight class lower, the WBA moved Puello to “champion in recess” and granted Barroso a title shot basically three years in the making.
Barroso seemed to be making the best of an opportunity received at 40 years old when one of boxing’s worst qualities, ineptitude by assigned officials, stole his chance to become world champion.
“I think it was an injustice to stop this fight,” Barroso said via interpreter after the fight. “He just stopped the fight and didn’t tell me anything. There was nothing clear he hit me with. Then he stopped the fight. We don’t understand.”