Daniel Roman returns to action this Friday on DAZN from the Forum in Inglewood, California, as the WBA super bantamweight titleholder takes on TJ Doheny, who holds the IBF belt, in a big 122-pound unification.
The fight is slotted as the co-feature to the super flyweight title rematch between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada. With those two fights leading a card that is also packed with prospects and features Jessie Vargas vs Humberto Soto, as well, this is really a big one for the diehard boxing fans.
Roman (26-2-1, 10 KO) will also be returning home to Los Angeles for this fight, his first in (or around) his hometown since 2016, when he beat Marlon Olea on a Thompson Boxing show at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario.
Roman, now 28, wasn’t really much on the radar as a potential serious contender at that time. He’d started his pro career just 8-2-1 from 2010-2013, not usually the signal for the start of a world title career in today’s boxing game.
But the win over Olea was his 13th in a row, too, and that included some victories over veterans like Christopher Martin and Christian Esquivel — not the top of the line, but the type of guys who beat pretenders. He picked up the NABA super bantamweight title, associated with the WBA, and after four defenses of that belt, found himself in a ShoBox main event against Adam Lopez, who came in 16-0-1.
After the fight had already been made official, the WBA made it an official eliminator. Roman was suddenly one win away, at least in theory, from a shot at a world title. He was the B-side against Lopez, a ShoBox veteran by that point, but dropped Lopez twice in the fourth round and stopped him after nine.
About seven months later, Roman found himself flying to Kyoto, Japan, for a bout against unbeaten WBA super bantamweight titleholder Shun Kubo, 12-0 with nine wins by stoppage. The Japanese fighter had the belt, home field advantage, and was coming off of a win over Nehomar Cermeno, an experienced former interim titleholder at 118 and 122.
Most probably expected Kubo would win — going from ShoBox level to the world title level is a big step, generally speaking. Kubo was longer, taller, and a southpaw. It was a lot to take in. A lot to overcome.
“We never had any doubt that Danny would win the WBA title,” said Thompson Boxing’s Alex Camponovo after the fight, which Roman pretty much completely dominated. When he stopped Kubo in the ninth round, Roman led on all three scorecards, 79-72, 80-72, and 80-72.
“Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now,” Roman said after the win. “It’s a dream come true.”
Less than six months later, Roman was back in Japan for his first title defense, this time at Tokyo’s famed Korakuen Hall, facing once-beaten Ryo Matsumoto. Once again, Roman’s opponent was not just the home fighter, but had a significant height advantage.
This time, Roman didn’t score any knockdowns, didn’t get a stoppage, but won a wide 12-round decision on scores of 118-110, 119-109, and 119-109. It had become clear that the eliminator win wasn’t a fluke and the title win wasn’t a fluke, either. Daniel Roman had arrived as one of the top 122-pound fighters in the world.
Roman returned to the States for a defense against unbeaten Mexican Moises Flores on the Spence-Ocampo Showtime card, and once again won a clean and clear decision. Last October, he went to Chicago and stopped Gavin McDonnell in the 10th round, successfully defending his title for the third time.
On Friday, though, he’s back home in sunny California.
“All the work has been done. I’m fine tuned and ready to go,” he said at Tuesday’s media workout.
Roman is now the strong betting favorite going into bouts; for this one, he’s listed anywhere from -650 to -900 as of this writing. And he wants to do more than just win.
“The plan is to steal the show on Friday night,” he said, a big task for any fight on the same show as Rungvisai-Estrada II.
Doheny (21-0, 15 KO) is a 32-year-old fighter, born in Ireland and based in Australia. He turned pro in 2012, and fought the first 14 bouts of his career in that country before a 2016 slot on a Murphys Boxing show at the House of Blues in Boston, a natural fight for a fighter with Irish roots.
Doheny fought for Murphys Boxing a couple more times in 2016 and 2018, and between those bouts had fights in Australia and Thailand in 2017. He just kept winning, and in Aug. 2018, got his own trip to Korakuen Hall for a fight with IBF super bantamweight titleholder Ryosuke Iwasa.
Doheny, the shorter man, outjabbed and outworked Iwasa, who was more accurate and did the more clearly visible damage, cutting the challenger under both eyes. Doheny wound up getting the scores, 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111, to take the IBF belt from Iwasa on foreign soil.
In January, Doheny came to New York for a title defense against Ryohei Takahashi, dominating the fight and stopping Takahashi in the 11th round. After that, the unification with Roman was agreed to and signed, and set for April 26.
“We’re the top two guys in the division. He wants to unify, I want to unify. It’s what all world champions should be trying to do,” Doheny said. “I keep saying this, you win a world title, it’s a dream come true, don’t get me wrong. But then you gotta raise the bar. What’s next? Unification.
“Fair play to Danny for taking on the unification. It’s what the fans want, it’s what the fighters want, and it’s great for professional boxing. It’s great to be in this position, it’s what every fighter wants. Ultimately, you want to unify the division and cement your name at the top of the division.”
Roman agrees, and shares the respect for his opponent. “TJ is a terrific talent. He’s a thinker and very calculating. I love a great challenge and can’t wait to see what he’s got. This is the type of fight that every world champion wants. The best fighting the best.”
More than just the fighters, this is the kind of fight that the fans want — two fighters at the top of a division actually getting in the ring to find out who’s better. It’s too rare we actually get this sort of thing.
The winner already has a challenge waiting, too, in the form of Murodjon Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4 KO), the WBA mandatory challenger who has been guaranteed his title shot next. The 24-year-old Akhmadaliev won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, representing Uzbekistan, losing in the semifinals to the brilliant Cuban Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time gold medal winner.
Akhmadaliev, who was last seen in November stopping Isaac Zarate on a late-period HBO show, is a serious challenge for the victor. And he’ll be in the house on Friday, as he’s staying busy against against former bantamweight title challenger-turned-journeyman Carlos Carlson (23-5, 14 KO) on the undercard. So you MJ, as he’s called, will be watching and scouting.
But that’s for later. For now, let’s appreciate Roman and Doheny for stepping up to the plate and looking to be even more than they’ve already become.