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Avila Perspective, Chap. 83: Danny Roman and Jojo Bring a SoCal Vibe to Miami

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  • Avila Perspective, Chap. 83: Danny Roman and Jojo Bring a SoCal Vibe to Miami

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    By David A. Avila

    Target zero for a loaded prizefighting card in Miami features several champions from the Northeast and a hint of the Southwest including WBA, IBF super bantamweight titlist Danny “Baby-Face Assassin” Roman.

    It harkens back to the days when Felix Trinidad roamed the boxing landscape and Don King Productions would load up fight cards with multiple world title bouts. More on that later.

    Los Angeles-based Roman (27-2-1, 10 KOs) defends the WBA and IBF titles against super bantamweight contender Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6 KOs) from Uzbekistan, who trains in Indio, California with the brothers Joel and Antonio Diaz.

    Roman-Akhmadaliev takes place Thursday Jan. 30, at Meridian of Island Gardens, Miami. DAZN will stream live.

    Years ago, this title fight would have headlined the Olympic Auditorium and sold out the 10,000 seats in a heartbeat. But this is the 21st century and pro boxing has changed.

    The demure Roman (pictured) makes his fifth defense of the championship he acquired with his battering boxing style against Shun Kubo in Japan 28 months ago. Since that win he toppled five undefeated fighters in defending the WBA title. Last April, he added the IBF title in a brutal fight with Australia’s TJ Doheny.

    Injury postponed this fight before, but Roman insists he’s ready to go. Akhmadaliev has a win over Isaac Zarate, a teammate of Roman. There’s history between the two Southern California camps.

    “He’s fast and strong but I think Danny is stronger,” said Zarate of Akhmadaliev who he fought in November 2018.

    Roman’s strength has been tempered against many of the best 122-pounders in the world including two southpaws since winning the championship. Akhmadaliev is another southpaw who has a lengthy amateur record but only seven pro fights.

    “He fought my teammate Isaac Zarate. I know he’s a strong fighter and I know he’s aggressive,” said Roman of Akhmadaliev. “He makes a few mistakes. He always has his hands down. I don’t know if that’s his style.”

    Unlike Akhmadaliev, who was an Olympian with numerous accolades as an amateur, Roman’s journey has been a slow ascent to the top. In the beginning of his pro career his trainer/manager Eddie Gonzalez would lobby local Southern California promoters to put Roman on their cards.

    Eventually Thompson Boxing Promotions signed Roman after watching him develop into a fighting machine capable of dismantling the strongest 122-pounders in the boxing crazy Southern California area.

    “I can’t think of any fight in the past that Danny has had that wasn’t action-packed,” said Alex Camponovo who discovered and signed numerous other world champions including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley and Yonnhy Perez for Thompson Boxing Promotions.

    Ten years ago, Roman began his pro career and lost two of his first 10 fights including a draw. Since 2013, he has not lost another fight and has developed into a high-volume wrecking machine with a blend of boxing not often seen in this age of flash and power.

    “You learn a lot from a loss,” said Roman. “I tried to box a little bit more. You learn that you can’t brawl everybody. Sometimes you got to fight a smart fight.”

    Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev has goals too. He’s part of a large contingent of fighters from that country who train in the Coachella desert. He seeks to become that country’s first unified world titlist with a win.

    “I’ve only had seven fights and I haven’t felt challenged in any of those fights. I am not comparing those fights to this one as I know they are different and this is a hard fight,” said Akhmadaliev. “All the talk about his experience that he brings to the ring is fine but it’s only when we get in the ring together that we will see who is the best fighter, the most experienced, who is stronger, faster, sharper and smarter.”

    Ken Thompson, whose company Thompson Boxing Promotions co-promotes Roman along with Matchroom Boxing, said he’s never seen a fighter comparable to the quiet L.A. fighter.

    “I think Danny Roman will go down as one of the greatest at 122 pounds,” said Thompson.

    It’s another tough test for 29-year-old Roman who relishes challenges.

    “I’ll fight anybody they put in front of me,” Roman said.

    Days of Tito

    Twenty years ago, I covered a large boxing Miami card that featured Felix “Tito” Trinidad defending against France’s Mamadou Thiam. The popular Puerto Rican fighter was coming off a knockout win over David Reid and a disputed win over Oscar De La Hoya. That night he packed the Miami arena.

    Don King promoted the large boxing card and one thing he always did was cobble each card with world title fights. He had Miami homegrown Randall Bailey defending against Colombia’s Ener Julio, Venezuela’s Felix Machado defending against Nicaragua’s Julio Gamboa, American Will Grigsby defending against Puerto Rico’s Nelson Dieppa and Cuba’s Joel Casamayor defending against American Bernard Harris.

    The boxing card lasted well into the night.

    If you know anything about Miami it’s truly an international city filled with all nationalities in its small area.

    It’s hard to believe that fight card took place 20 years ago.


    Much like Don King did years ago and also similar to what Dana White does with UFC, the British promoter Eddie Hearn weaves together fight cards with multiple champions and adds ticket sellers to enhance the crowds. It’s smart tactics.

    Some fighters just don’t attract fans because of their styles or unfamiliar faces. But don’t let it detract from this boxing card on Thursday. It’s loaded.

    WBO middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (28-0) a talented safety-first fighter defends against Ireland’s Luke Keeler (17-2-1) in a scheduled 12-round contest. Though extremely skilled Andrade has yet to find the balance between entertainment and winning. He’s too careful and would rather win every round easily than entertain the fans by attempting a knockout against an over-matched opponent. He prefers to jab and move and shimmy than simply overwhelm his foe and take him out.

    It would be different if he simply did not possess the firepower, but he does. Let’s see if he can find that level of entertainment that the great one’s possess.

    Another talented matchup features IBF super featherweight titlist Tevin Farmer (30-4-1) defending against Jojo Diaz (30-1). Farmer is another talented fighter who easily could win every round by jabbing and running, but he’s learned to entertain fans by attacking once he figures out a foe.

    Diaz, from South El Monte in LA County, will provide a big step up for Farmer. Both are extremely fast but neither has the firepower to depend on knockouts. They depend on speed and skill. This should be an incredible skirmish.

    Both have been trading insults for more than a year and finally get to meet in the boxing ring.

    Also added to the card is female world champion Amanda Serrano, the seven division world champion. Yes, you read that correctly. She had won world titles in seven weight divisions. The Puerto Rican southpaw slugger meets Brazil’s Simone Aparecida in an eight-round super featherweight clash.

    Don’t miss this. Serrano hits hard and hits fast.

    Friday in Louisiana

    Featherweight prospect Ruben Villa returns to Shreveport, Louisiana to meet Alexei Collado (26-2, 23 KOs) a Cuban fighter with pop on Friday Jan. 31, in a 10-round fight. Showtime will televise the featherweight clash.

    Villa, 22, is another Thompson Boxing Promotions fighter who fought a year ago in the same city and hopes for the same results. He’s a southpaw with speed and skills and he’s slippery to hit. He will need those attributes against the heavy-hitting Collado who has won almost every fight by knockout in the past four years.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how Villa handles the Havana veteran. He just might be world title material.

    Fights to Watch

    Thurs. DAZN 4 p.m. Danny Roman (27-2-1) vs Murodjon Akhmadaliev (7-0); Demetrius Andrade (28-0) vs. Luke Keeler (17-2-1); Tevin Farmer (30-4-1) vs. Jojo Diaz (30-1).

    Thurs. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Ernesto Delgadillo (11-0-2) vs Jade Bornea (14-0).

    Fri. Showtime 7 p.m. Ruben Villa (17-0) vs Alexei Collado (26-2).

    Sat. Fox Sports 1, 5 p.m. Yordenis Ugas (24-4) vs Mike Dallas Jr. (23-3-2).

    Photo credit: Al Applerose

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel