Rolando Romero Scores Win Over Ismael Barroso Via Hugely Controversial Stoppage

Officially, Rolando Romero scored a ninth-round knockout of Ismael Barroso in Las Vegas on Saturday night, but the ringside crowd was vociferous in its confusion and disapproval at the shocking ending to what had been to that point a sterling effort from the 40-year-old Barroso.

Romero (15-1, 13 KOs), fighting for the first time at super lightweight after losing a lightweight title fight to Gervonta Davis last May, seemed perplexed by the awkward, cunning style from the Venezuelan veteran, who repeatedly threw a southpaw left to Romero’s body before switching upstairs and landing on Romero’s jaw. One such punch sent Romero down in the third round, and the 27-year-old Las Vegan struggled to lift his hometown crowd as he was seemingly hypnotized by Barroso’s methodical but accurate output. Periodically, Romero flashed some boxing ability and threatened to get back into the contest, only for Barroso to resume control. After eight rounds, Barroso was ahead on all three scorecards.

Then came the bizarre ninth round. 

A Romero left hand landed cleanly and appeared to hurt Barroso (24-4-2, 22 KOs), as did a follow-up left hand. A Romero right hand cuffed Barroso around the back of the head; Romero leant into the punch and appeared to push Barroso to the canvas, but referee Tony Weeks called it a knockdown. 

Feeling newly confident, Romero let his hands go, chasing his opponent into a corner. But Barroso stood his ground, meeting fire with fire and seemingly blocking or slipping as many punches as he took cleanly, only for Weeks to step in and stop the fight, handing Romero a vacant world title belt.

Barroso, in common with virtually every observer, was baffled by the stoppage.

“I think it was an injustice to stop this fight,” he said afterward. “I was landing the best shots.” The first knockdown, he said, “was a push more than anything. I don’t understand.”

Even Romero said he would have liked the contest to continue.

“I’ll be honest; he’s a warrior, he wanted to keep going, he should have been able to keep going.” He argued nonetheless that he had been boxing well, acknowledging that “the man is strong, I had to be careful with him.”

He would, he said, next like to either face Davis in a rematch or take on Ryan Garcia, whom davis recently stopped, “on pay-per-view.”

The crowd booed.

37-year-old Cuban veteran Rances Barthelemy bounced back from his first stoppage defeat to outpoint Omar Juarez over 10 lackluster rounds in the co-main event.  Barthelemy (30-2-1, 15 KOs) worked behind a high guard and lengthy jab as he sought to keep the younger Juarez (14-2, 5 KOs) at range, while Juarez’s corner kept urging him to be the more active fighter and pressure the older man at close quarters. In the event, however, Juarez was unable to let his hands go to the extent his team wanted; in fact, the contest was notable for the remarkable similarity in each man’s punch output, Barthelemy landing 95 punches of 448 thrown and Juarez scoring with 101 of 428. The big difference was that Barthelemy was far more accurate with his power punches, landing 49 percent.

In his previous outing, Barthelemy was stopped in the sixth round by Gary Antuanne Russell, and he said after his win over Juarez that he would like the opportunity to avenge that loss.

“I want this more than even a title,” he said. “I want that rematch with Gary Antuanne Russell. I want  badly.”

In the opening bout on the Showtime telecast, Kenneth Sims Jr scored a majority decision over two-time world title challenger Batyr Akhmedov to put himself in line for a title shot. Sims, 20-2-1 (7 KOs), who boosted his career in 2021 with a decision victory over then-unbeaten Elvis Rodriguez, started the contest strongly, throwing more than 60 punches in each of the first two rounds, before Akhmedov began to go through the gears and increase his own punch output, digging to Sim’s body and working behind a stiff southpaw jab.  Sims continued to throw strong counter punches, but Akhmedov’s work rate appeared to be swinging the contest in his favor until Sims, who had previously not been past the eighth round in his career, dug in his toes and started rattling Akhmedov’s head with blistering combinations. Akhmedov (9-3, 8 KOs) rallied in the eleventh, before both men let fly in a blistering final frame. When all 12 rounds were completed, the two combatants combined for 640 landed punches, the most tracked by CompuBox in any fight so far in 2023, but Sims emerged the victor by scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 116-112. 

Akhmedov, whose previous two defeats, via points to Mario Barrios and Alberto Puello, were controversial, was in disbelief at the result.

"I felt confident that I was winning the fight. I felt confident that I'm winning the fight. But it's like every time I don't stop my opponent it's like they win. It seems like it's a goal against me,” he said. "For me it's tough because I give all my life to this sport. I've been participating in this sport all my life. But it's really unfortunate.”

"This is the fight that I expected.” said Sims afterward. “This is what I've been waiting on for years. Like I said before, I thought he won the title in his last fight so I thought he should be a world champion. So this just showed I'm ready for whatever. I'm ready to be world champion.

 "I'm not supposed to be here right now. I'm not supposed to be here right now. That's what they say. Ain't nobody thought I would be here right now. And I know that I'm the best so at 140 it's whatever. I'm ready for anyone.”

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